Throughout your hearing journey, friends, family, colleagues and other people you meet will probably be curious about that cool technology on your head—your hearing implant. People will always be interested in technology they don’t see often, and so they may ask questions to learn more. Depending on how you feel about your hearing implant, you may welcome the opportunity to talk about how it works and how it is improving your quality of life. In this post, we share tips on how to answer tricky questions from people about your hearing implant.
Understanding your hearing identity
Regardless of your age, it is important to accept your hearing implant as part of your identity. Understanding your hearing identity can help you to confidently explain how your device works and its benefits to you. This can help with difficult social interactions, and for adolescents, avoiding bullying.
We encourage parents of young children who receive a hearing implant to create an experience book in which they will describe their hearing loss, the operation, and their hearing specialist team. This allows your child to rehearse the conversation about their hearing with friends and family. This way, when your child begins school, they can continue to talk about their device with confidence from a strong self-identity.
Common questions and tips for responding
What does it sound like with your hearing implant?
This will be very different for each recipient and only you know what the experience is like from your perspective. Some websites provide simulations that sound robotic and thin, other examples are richer and more musical sounding. If you received your hearing implant as a child then this will be the only hearing you are familiar with and you won’t be able to compare it to what a hearing person has access to. If you were implanted after losing your hearing you may have a better point of comparison. Talk openly and honestly—friends and family will genuinely want to know what your experience is like for you!
Will you always need to wear a hearing implant?
The short answer is yes. The hearing implant does not cure or repair your hearing but overcomes your hearing loss by directly stimulating your hearing nerve—you will always need to wear it to hear clearly.
Why can’t you hear as well in noisy situations?
A hearing implant processor is good at discriminating voice sounds from other noises and makes it easier for you to hear voices. But if you are somewhere with a lot of people talking at once, the processor will not know which voice to make louder for you! Working with your hearing rehabilitationist will help you to learn strategies to get better at listening in noisy situations.
Can you fly in a plane?
Yes you can! It can be helpful to carry an identification card to alert the team when you are moving through security so they understand why you set off the security metal detector. You can choose to remove the audio processors or leave them on, but you should not experience discomfort during this process. You can find out more about traveling with your CI here.
Can you have a MRI?
MRI safety is especially important for cochlear implant recipients because every cochlear implant has an internal magnet, and this can be affected by an MRI scan. Almost everyone will need an MRI in their lifetime, so people might wonder what that means for your safety. Every MED-EL cochlear implant from the past 20 years has been designed so you can safely have MRI scans.
Does it work immediately?
A hearing implant is not like a pair of glasses that you put on and experience the benefits of immediately. The hearing implant directly stimulates your hearing nerve, and it will take some time for your brain to recognize and react to this new stimulation. Rehabilitation and persistence is key to hearing your best with a hearing implant—so stick with it!
This post was written by Trudy Smith, a Rehabilitation specialist at MED-EL Headquarters.
Does your child have hearing loss? Check out further information and tips for parents here!
Have you been asked a question about your hearing implant that you found difficult to answer?
Eriks-Brophy, A., Durieux-Smith, A., Olds, J., Fitzpatrick, E., Duqette, C. and Whittingham, J. (2007) Facilitators and Barriers to the integration of orally educated children and youth with hearing loss into their families and communities. The Volta Review, V 107 (1), pp5-36.