Hearing new and different sounds with your cochlear implant can be a big milestone for many people, followed by being able to identify those sounds.
Below are 7 tips from travelling with CI to fitting into your lifestyle so you can make the most of your way of hearing....
Please note: All information on this page is viewed as a general guide only and doesn't constitute as health advice. When in doubt, please consult your clinician or health professional as they'll be able to advise in relation to your hearing conditions.
1. Becoming Familiar With Your Cochlear Implant
When hearing new sounds through the processor can be a milestone in learning your new way of hearing. However, it can take some time to really understand and identify particular sounds as you’re essentially training certain parts of your brain. It's important to wear your cochlear implant processor as much as possible and see how you can incorporate it into your daily routine and lifestyle.
If you're finding wearing your processor overwhelming at first, this is completely normal. In this case, it can be helpful starting off in a comfortable environment such as around the home. This way the sounds can be more controlled, like listening to other family members, the radio and other sounds around the house.
After you feel comfortable wearing your cochlear implant processor in controlled sound environments, gradually, wear it a bit longer each time in different environments with new sounds. This can be a good way to not only start feeling more conformable wearing your processor longer periods of time but also in different environments.
If you have had your processor for a while and still feeling it to be uncomfortable in certain environments, some tips could be to try lowering the volume of your processor a little bit or switching to another program as some programs might help in particular environments, such as the front facing mic when talking face to face. Following this, if you’re still finding it very uncomfortable or you find yourself reducing the volume down often, perhaps talk to your clinician to see if they can help.
The most important factor with wearing a cochlear implant is that the more you wear it in different environments, the more you’ll find it beneficial in developing listening skills. Also, remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day.
2. Everyone Learns at Different Paces
As we hear and identify sounds through our brains, everyone learns at different paces and stages, so it's important to understand that it's not a race and to try and not be frustrated when trying to identify new sounds around you. Some people may learn to identify certain frequencies of sounds quicker than others.
As we use our brains to identify these sounds, there are cases where the benefits may not be immediate but rather graduate, especially if it's a particular sounds or frequencies you're trying to identify. It's important not to be frustrated if it takes longer than you might have originally anticipated. With practice, your brain will start to be familiar with those sounds and start to recognise them more. This is where it can be help to practice and wear your processor as much as possible in different environments.
As we use our brains to identify these sounds, there are cases where the benefits may not be immediate but rather graduate, especially if it's a particular sounds you're trying to identify.
3. Hearing in Noisy Situations (Such as Restaurants or Group Environments)
The processor may not be able to completely help understand things in very noisy groups or environments (even those without hearing loss can find it challenging). However, you may find over time that your brain will start adapting to different environments and sounds, making ability to understand in certain noisy environments be easier (such as being familiar with someone's voice, or learning to block out a particular background noise).
Depending on the type of environment or situation, some tips to improve the situation can be:
If sitting inside such as a restaurant, it can help to ask if there is a quiet place with good lighting. Also, some people find it can be helpful to sit away from the windows (to minimise the outside noise) or with your back against the wall to cut out background noise behind you.
Some people find it helpful to sit up towards or up the front, if listening to in a conference or there is a main speaker, such as in a classroom or seminar.
If sitting in a group such as at the table, it can help sitting in a circle or a situation where you can see everyone’s faces with enough lighting so you can see the speakers visual cues such as lip-reading.
After a while, you'll start to become accustomed to planning where to sit in a range of different circumstances to help you the most of the situations and environments around you.
4. Being Prepared When Travelling
Many people travel around with their processor on a daily basis like to and from work, visiting a friend or generally going out for the day or evening. It’s important to remember to plan ahead with plenty of spare batteries (if you’re using reusables) and a dry-box, especially if you’re in the warmer climates.
If you don’t change your cochlear implant processor batteries regularly, they can go flat when you least expect it when you're away from home (however, any time it goes flat isn't a good time). If using disposable batteries, it can be useful to have a spare packet of batteries in places you frequent went heading out such as spare batteries at work, a friend’s place or in your carry bag.
If using re-chargeable batteries, it can be a good habit to charge them overnight when you take them off so you have a freshly charged one for the next day (and bonus, if you have a spare charged re-chargeable battery in your carry bag as well just incase).
It’s important to remember to plan ahead with plenty of spare batteries (if you’re using reusables) and a dry-box, especially if you’re in the warmer climates.
5. Asking the Speaker to Repeat What They Said
It may take a bit of time to get used to and understand other people speaking when they're talking to you, especially if you’re not familiar with their voice. It’s important to remember not to hesitate or feel nervous if you want someone to repeat what they said, even if it's asking them more than once.
Some terms which can be useful to keep in mind if you feel you've misheard them are:
Sorry, what did you say?
How did you mean? (This can help the speaker explain it in a different way);
I didn't quite understand the first/last part you said?
If you think you heard some of what they said, you can clarify it by repeating back what you think you heard. (This can be useful if the speaker is saying something which can be important such as their name, email address or phone number).
You can also ask the speaker not to shout or exaggerate and to speak naturally and clearly. Also, sometimes letting the speaker know if you lip-read (when talking face to face) can make all the difference in clear communication.
6. Taking Notes of Your New Hearing Journey
Sometimes a lot can be covered during a session with your clinician, and it can be overwhelming for some people, especially during the earlier visits. It can be great to take notes different milestones and stages, such as the first sounds you identified clearly or sounds in particular you're finding challenging.
Taking notes can also help relay some of the important notes when you have sessions with your clinicians as well as reflect on them in between visits. It can also be helpful to look back on your notes as you progress throughout your hearing journey, as because it's a gradual progress for many throughout the wide range of sound, it can be a good reminder how far you've gone in the journey.
It can be great to take notes different milestones and stages, such as the first sounds you identified clearly or sounds in particular you're finding challenging.
7. The Significance of Fittings For Your Lifestyle
When using your processor everyday along with training, you can become accustomed to the sounds around you. However, sometimes there are certain types of sounds that may seem louder than others or unbearable to the stage that you may feel that you can’t escape them. These might be sounds such as keyboard typing or doors creaking.
Rather than taking you cochlear implant processor off, discuss these sounds with your clinician who may be able to help with alternatives, such as creating different programs for your processor for certain environments. Taking notes and talking to your clinician about your experience with your processor can be helpful and allow you to not only make the most of your hearing journey, but also enjoying your new way of hearing in identifying the sounds around you.
Taking notes and talking to your clinician about your experience with your processor can be helpful and allow you to not only make the most of your hearing journey, but also enjoying your new way of hearing in identifying the sounds around you.
How have you been finding your hearing journey so far? Are there any tips that you use to help make the most of hearing and identifying the sounds around you?