Receiving an audio processor can be an exciting time for any cochlear implant recipient. But after it’s turned on for the first time, during the first fitting, then what? How often should a cochlear implant recipient wear their audio processor?
Starting to hear with a cochlear implant is a huge step on the hearing journey. Although no two recipients are alike, there are similarities: using a cochlear implant is a whole new way of hearing. All of a sudden, sounds are coming from anywhere and sounds are coming from everywhere.
It’s no surprise that having all of these sounds turned on overnight can seem overwhelming. And, just like in many other situations that are overwhelming, the first response can often be to just hit the “off” button: turning off, or taking off, the audio processor. But if this sounds familiar to you or someone you know, don’t do it. Most professionals who work with hearing implants will agree that using the audio processor during all waking hours, as much as is possible, is better.
When to Wear Your Cochlear Implant Audio Processor
Wearing your audio processor during all waking hours gives your ear(s) the greatest amount of practice, and every bit of this practice helps your brain to adapt to these new sounds.
How can you do this? Incorporate your audio processor into your daily routine: start each day by grabbing your audio processor, and then your toothbrush. Put it on and savor each and every sound that you can hear.
There are only a few situations where you shouldn’t wear your audio processor. One big one is during a medical procedure. For example, if you’re having a medical procedure like an MRI or x-ray, you should definitely remove your audio processor. (If you’re concerned about your implant, there’s no need to worry. Current MED-EL cochlear implants are FDA-approved at 1.5 T, however you should always check on the safety of the procedure with your medical and hearing professionals.) Metal detectors won’t interfere with your audio processor in most cases, so you shouldn’t have to take it off. Check with your cochlear implant clinic if there are any other situations in which they recommend you remove your processor.
Hearing Comfortably With a Cochlear Implant
If during the day you start to feel irritated or uncomfortable, don’t reach for the audio processor’s “off” button just yet. There are a few different ways that you can make sure to hear, and hear comfortably.
Try lowering the volume. Just use your FineTuner remote to turn down the loudness a few steps. It might surprise you how effective this can be.
Switch up your programs. Modern cochlear implant sound technologies, especially Automatic Sound Management, are so advanced that they can recognize and automatically adapt to different types of listening situations (like listening to music, or being where there’s lots of background noise), but sometimes you might want the comfort of knowing that there’s a program specifically for when you’re uncomfortable. What would this program contain? That’s entirely up to your hearing, so talk with your audiologist about what exactly makes you feel uncomfortable.
Changing up your wearing configuration can also make it more physically comfortable to wear your audio processor. Do you wear eye glasses? Pop on the single-unit RONDO to get your audio processor off the ear. Or, check out OPUS 2’s different wearing options. An active lifestyle shouldn’t interrupt your hearing, and with the Sports Headband you can stay active in both comfort and security.
Here’s a video of MED-EL recipient Jean, who chose the OPUS 2 to ensure that she could hear while still wearing her bicycle helmet:
Remember, the only way to develop your listening skills and comfort is by listening. Using a lower volume is always better than not wearing your audio processor. If you find you have to reduce the volume often, always let your audiologist know this on your next visit.
This post was written with help from clinical specialist Josée Chénier.