Receiving a cochlear implant should never be the last stop on someone’s hearing journey. This is especially true for older adult recipients. Why? It’s because the cochlear implant sends auditory information to the brain, and sometimes the brain needs help to re-learn how to process this information.
If someone has had a long-term hearing loss, even if they used hearing aids, that means their brain might have gone decades without hearing some sounds. How can this be overcome? One big part is adult cochlear implant rehabilitation.
Quick Intro: What Is Rehabilitation?
If you or a loved one like your parent is just learning about cochlear implants for the first time, there might be a lot of terms and concepts that are unfamiliar. So, here’s a quick description of auditory rehabilitation.
Auditory rehabilitation is a combination of listening exercises, games, and activities, done to help a cochlear implant recipient train their brain to understand the sound information that the cochlear implant sends to the brain.
Adult Cochlear Implant Rehabilitation
What’s the best way to help an older adult rehabilitate?
One of the most important parts of rehabilitation is setting realistic goals. Setting realistic goals helps older adults to understand that they may need to relearn how they hear, especially if they have had a hearing loss for a long time. Although hearing with a cochlear implant is different from natural hearing, older adults can develop their hearing and listening skills with time, especially when they practice with rehabilitation exercises. Realistic goals for rehabilitation can include:
- improving communication skills in quiet and noisy situations
- communicating and participating in social life
- going about daily life, like going shopping and to doctors’ appointments, independently
- enhancing general quality of life
Where rehabilitation is done really depends on how mobile or independent the recipient is. Some prefer to visit a rehabilitation therapist for regular training, while others benefit from home-based training or online rehabilitation activities.
Individualized, Recipient-Centered Care
Some recipients will make great progress with minimal training, while others need longer and more intensive training. In general, the best rehabilitation program for an older adult is one that meets their communicative needs while at the same time adapting to his or her cognitive skills and attention span.
And, while adult cochlear implant rehabilitation is important to getting the best benefit from a cochlear implant, it’s not the only part. Other factors include:
- receiving advanced cochlear implant technology
- a well-fitted audio processor, programmed for the recipient’s specific hearing needs
- clear explanations of how to use the audio processor and accessories
When a recipient has all of these, then they are well on their way to getting the most out of their cochlear implant.
Do you have any tips for adult cochlear implant rehabilitation?
If you are curious about hearing loss in older adults: learn how to identify age-related hearing loss.
If you are considering a hearing implant: find out what older adults need to know about hearing implant surgery.
If your parent or an older loved one has an implant: 10 ways to care for an older adult with a hearing implant.