Your hearing journey begins the day of your activation. Though that first day of restored hearing is filled with much anticipation, emotion and joy it is important to remember your hearing will most likely not be instantly “normal” nor equivalent to others’ hearing experience. Just as no two people are alike, no two journeys into the world of cochlear implant hearing will be alike. What others have found helpful may not work for you. Some of these exercises require a helper (a hearing partner) to read and score your responses. If you don’t have a hearing partner on your journey, don’t worry. Most of these suggestions can be done alone.
NEVER COMPARE your hearing journey with that of others.
Many Cochlear Implant recipients will tell you that the three P’s – practice, patience, and perseverance- will determine how well you hear. Please understand that having the mindset of “low expectations and high hopes” will spare you from disappointment and frustration during those early days of hearing.
Repetition, repetition, repetition!!!
Your hearing journey is ongoing your comprehension of speech and sounds will improve significantly over time. Learning to hear with a cochlear implant or BAHA is a skills development exercise like any other: the more you practice and commit to an exceptional hearing outcome, the better your hearing comprehension will improve. At times, this may be emotionally taxing and perhaps even frustrating, but recipients routinely create exceptional hearing outcomes by investing the required time and energy.
DO NOT GET DISCOURAGED. ATTITUDE IS 90% OF THE PATH TO SUCCESS.
This is a compilation of what other CI recipients, and I have found helpful in our hearing journeys.
- Relax!!! Your hearing journey is a marathon not a sprint. Just as an athlete conditions for her event you must also condition your brain to interpret the new sounds you’re hearing.
- Do not set a timetable as to what and when you’re going to understand the different sounds around you. Your listening comprehension will improve on a timeline that is unique to you.
- Let the sounds come to you.
- Look at everyday as a new day filled with WOW moments.
- Wear your processor all day. If you feel tired, overwhelmed by sound, or your hearing seems a little off it’s fine to “rest “by taking off your processor for a short periods of time. Giving your brain short breaks is just as beneficial as giving it a good workout.
- Close your eyes and take yourself to that “peaceful” place far away from the pressure to perfectly understand everything you hear.
- Keep the television or radio on all day. Using the wireless accessories will vastly improve sound. There will be no distortion nor interference from Wi-Fi networks, mobile phones, etc.
- Watch programs and movies with the subtitles, but challenge yourself not to reply on the captioning exclusively. It’s a good way to practice and will help with listening comprehension.
- YouTube has children’s books with a reader. Storyonline.com is another excellent source for those beginning to rehab.
- Listen to audiobooks following along with the printed version of the book if helpful. Your local library may have an audiobook collection you can access for free.
- The Great Courses are lecture series on hundreds of topics. They may be found at your local library online. They are not closed captioned which forces you to lipread the lecturer while streaming the audio to your processor.
- Have someone read the newspaper or a passage from a book or poem and have you repeat it back to them.
- Have fun with your hearing rehab. Play games like name that sound. Enlist the help of family/friends to challenge you to name the sounds around you. Invent your own game.
- Listen to the radio (talk radio) when driving.
- If you don’t have small children go the park or playground to familiarize yourself with the way they speak.
- Have a child read to you or sing his/her favorite song. Children’s voices can be just as difficult to understand as an adult’s voice.
- Listen to music – easy listening/mellow – without a lot of instruments or vocals. Start by finding a song you remember following along with printed lyrics to jog your mental/listening memory. As you begin to understand music add different types of songs/music to your listening list. Hearmusicagain.com has helpful hints and easy listening internet music.
- Old songs may not sound like you remember them. In fact, they probably won’t. Don’t be discouraged. Your brain needs to learn to recognize them again. If the first time you listen to an old favorite, it sounds “off,” play it again and again. Your brain will catch up to your ears! YouTube music videos of familiar sounds will help. Search for your favorite song and add the words: with lyrics to your search term. You brain will kick in faster with the lyrics and the music together. Remember, even people with normal hearing often have problems with understanding the lyrics. Patience will pay off
- Music with more rhythm tends to be easier to learn. In the beginning, jazz with a lot of brass, is the easiest way to get music to sound recognizable and normal.
- Set up times to call family members and friends to hold a phone conversation every day.
- Go for a walk or sit outside to re-acclimate or learn the sounds of nature. Try to pick out the different songs birds sing. Soon those songs will be in perfect harmony.
- Go to restaurants at non-peak times.
- Turn on appliances such as the microwave, dishwasher, washer, dryer etc. Put your ear close to anything around the house just to learn the sound.
- Utilize your wireless accessories. They can be a big help in various situations (car, restaurant, etc.) Each manufacturer offers their own set of devices. Do your research. When doing rehabilitation exercises from a laptop or television, direct streaming of the sound source is preferred.
- Sit at the front of the room to hear/see the speaker. Don’t be shy. If you cannot hear a speaker at a lecture or in a classroom, ask them to clip a remote mic accessory to their shirt or jacket. It will make the experience much more enjoyable. Just don’t forget to get it back at the end.
- Use a T-Coil setting to help you hear in venues that are equipped with the hearing loop.
- Use your remote assistant. Adjust the volume and sensitivity for different hearing environments. Your audiologist can help you select settings that are suitable for your lifestyle and interests. Remember again, no two people have the same loss or the same solution for their hearing journey. Everyone can have a customized solution.
- Think outside the box!!! There is so much you can do to connect the dots to hearing. Just use your imagination.
Other helpful ideas:
- Keep a journal of both good and bothersome issues you encounter. Take that journal to your appointments with your audiologist. This specific feedback will provide your audiologist a better understanding of the problems you may be experiencing positively influence adjustments.
- Work with your audiologist to improve the fine tuning. Ask about T (threshold levels – softest sounds you hear) and C levels (comfort levels – loudest sounds you can comfortably tolerate) . Discuss the different programs/coding strategies and when to use them. Learn as much as you can about the process and the features available to your processor.
- Manufacturers recommend that you change your microphone covers once every three months or sooner if you live in an area where humidity is high, you perspire often or notice a change in sound quality. Keeping clean microphone covers in place is important.
- Ideally, store your processor in a dryer such as a Zephyr or other drying device, every night. If your device has a replaceable desiccant cartridge be sure to mark the date on it and replace as per the instructions. REMEMBER: Moisture is the enemy of all electronics.
- If you use them, recharge your rechargeable batteries, and keep those not in use in the recharger unit.
Useful Rehabilitation Programs and Support
NOTE: LIVE LINKS ARE FOUND AT COCHLEARIMPLANTBASICS.COM
- TED Talks TED Talks
- News in Easy English newsineasyenglish.com News in Easy English – Easy News for ESL Listening
Angel Sounds Interactive Listening Rehabilitation & Hearing test: http://angelsound.tigerspeech.com/
Facebook groups offer support for recipients of all ages. Some groups to consider are:
- Cochlear Implant Daily Rehab
- Bilateral CI Warrior
- Cochlear Awareness Network
- Cochlear Implant Users
- Cochlear Hybrid Implant Group
- Cochlear Implant Experiences
- Cochlear Implants How to Enjoy Music
These programs are produced by different cochlear implant manufacturers but may be utilized by other cochlear implant brand recipients.
Music For Cochlear Implant Users: MED-EL’s Spotify Playlists – The MED-EL Blog (medel.com)