Change: Moving to a new city, starting a new job, starting a new semester at school. All of these changes can be difficult for anybody, but if you’ve got a hearing implant each can have its own hearing-related challenges. Not only do you have to learn a new routine and new people, you also have to adapt to the sounds of your new environment.
The good thing is that there are lots of ways that you can help both yourself, and others, to make the transition as productive as is possible.
What You Can Do to Hear Better
As with so much in life, change largely comes from within. So, here are some things that you can do yourself to adapt to new situations:
Understand exactly what your own needs are. How well do you hear currently? Can you hear both male and female voices, do you hear better with assistive listening devices?
Find out if there’s an office or individual who works exclusively with persons with disabilities. It’s possible that you’re not the first person in your new situation with a hearing loss, so learn from others! It could be for support, or just to get information about what hearing-related resources are available to you.
Speak with your audiologist. Your audiologist is a person who knows a lot about your hearing, so ask them if they have any advice for steps you can take to hear your best.
Make sure that you’re in the best location where you work or study. Whether it’s in the front of the classroom and near the teacher, sit so that your implanted side is closest to the speaker, or in a well-lit area if you like to lipread, and put yourself in a spot where sound will be clear and easy to hear.
If you feel really nervous or feel you need extra support, you might consider using an interpreter or other assistant. Don’t be ashamed of wanting to communicate your best. So, find out if there are sign language interpreters, lipspeakers, or notetakers who can accompany you in the early steps of your transition.
Keep spare batteries and accessories at hand. This way you don’t have to worry about your processor distracting you from concentrating on hearing and listening.
Don’t let yourself be pressured into uncomfortable situations. If you don’t feel comfortable, then let someone else know. Whether it’s because the situation is too loud or there’s too much background noise, the worst thing that can happen is for you to feel uncomfortable but not try to change it.
Keep a hearing journal. Take each experience as a learning experience. Use what you learn from one situation to help you in another. Write down hearing challenges or successes so that you can reflect on them and use them as a reference for when you enter new listening situations in the future.
Share your experiences with others. Just like you might have asked someone for their advice, you can also provide advice to others. For example, you could check out the HearPeers community.
Working With Others
Let others know you have a hearing loss, and use a hearing implant. It sounds simple, right? But sometimes recipients or those around them feel embarrassed about either hearing loss or an implant. So, by explaining it you can show that you’re open and approachable.
Don’t be afraid to ask them to slow down, or repeat themselves. If it’s easier for you to hear someone when they speak slowly, make sure to let them know that. The same goes if you need someone to repeat what they said.
You can provide brochures or information to others. Ask your clinic if they have brochures or flyers about communicating with someone who has a hearing impairment. These can be a great reference tool for classmates, coworkers, and others.
If background noise is distracting you, let them know. Sometimes it’s as simple as moving to a different part of the room. They won’t know you are having difficulties unless you tell them.
If you’d like to read more tips from a cochlear implant recipient, Adam Fitzgerald wrote an article about how he found it helpful to educate others about cochlear implants.
This article was written with help from Salma Asim, a clinical specialist who focuses on audiology.