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Cochlear Implants and Sports

Physical Activity with a Cochlear Implant

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Updated May 10, 2009

One of the biggest myths about cochlear implants is that if you have an implant, you can not do certain things such as swim or play football. A typical question asked by an About visitor:
    "I recently heard that CI's limit athletic and amusement participation in receipients (ie. scuba diving, contact sports, riding roller coasters.). Curious, if this is true, if medical professionals in support of CI's include that information to prospective recipients. How much "normal" children's activity is limited by the CI?"

Parents of Implantees on Sports

A similar question was asked on the forum by Phonac, who was concerned that if her daughter received a cochlear implant she would not be able to cheerlead. In response, throw3, wrote:
    "I have one child, a son, who is hearing impaired,and has the C.I. His E.N.T. (Ear, Nose & Throat) doctor who did the surgery told me that there are only several activities a person with a C.I. can't do and they are:wrestling, kickboxing, and scrubdiving[sp]. With any other sport that might have the chance of the child hitting their head, you just have to be careful and if needed, have the child wear protective gear[such as a helmet, with the external part of the CI removed]. The child doesn't have to quit doing sports because they have a C.I."
Other contact sports that should be avoided due to the strong likelihood of injury to the head, are rugby and ice hockey.

Another parent, 4my2kids, wrote:

    "My son also has C.I. since he was 28 months old, doing great as well. He has participated in baseball and was a back catcher on one of his baseball teams...

    I had a friend in high school who had a C.I. He played football on the varsity team. He would take off his device when he played then when the game was over, he put his device back on."

Swimming and Scuba Diving with an Implant

Implantees can swim, as long as they take off the external part of the implant. As for scuba diving, according to Cochlear's website implantees CAN scuba dive, but should check with a medical professional before scuba diving. Cochlear's implants can "withstand pressure at a depth of 25 meters (82 feet) underwater."

Playgrounds and Implants

For younger children, it may be necessary to be cautious around playgrounds and trampolines. The plastic in playground equipment can create electrostatic discharge that will interfere with the mapping of a speech processor. To avoid this risk, the implantee should simply remove the external parts of the implant.

Exercise Equipment and Implants

Treadmills can be used, but the implantee must make sure the treadmill is in place properly in order to avoid an electric static shock. Removing the external part of the implant before using the treadmill will eliminate the risk.

For those activities that require an implantee to remove the external part of the implant, this means that the implantee will not hear while doing these activities. Sign language and/or an interpreter will help to fill in the gap.

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