Earlier we gave an overview of what you can expect during a cochlear implant activation, but remember: the first fitting isn’t the final step in your hearing journey. In the first weeks and months after activation you’ll have several fittings with your clinician, and these fittings are where you can work together to fine-tune your hearing. The second fitting is commonly after about one month, so I’ve put together a little bit of info to help you learn about what might happen in these weeks.
Your First Month Will Be Full of New Experiences
Once your processor has been turned on, you’ll experience a whole range of new sounds. All of these sounds that you hear are like exercise for your brain, and with this repeated exercise your brain will change and interpret sounds differently.
Of course, the extent of these changes is different for everyone, and some people’s hearing will change a lot while others will not change very much. Which one happens to you depends on lots of different factors: for example, the length and degree of your hearing loss before implantation, the cause of the hearing loss, and your age.
Cochlear Implant Fittings are Where Your Hearing Gets Fine-Tuned
During the fitting, your clinician will work with you to adjust your cochlear implant’s settings to take advantage of these changes. The main goal of these adjustments is to make sure that sounds, well, sound like they’re supposed to sound: sounds that are supposed to be soft sound soft to you, medium sounds sound medium, and loud sounds sound loud. This will make sure that your hearing range is just right for you.
By letting your clinician know about your hearing, you can help provide information to make a better map. Keep a journal with the different sounds that you could (or could not) hear in lots of different listening environments, like at home, at work, at a restaurant, or in the car, and make notes of how loud all of these different sounds seemed. Do higher-pitched sounds seem louder? This could be very valuable for your clinician.
Some sounds just might be unpleasant to listen to. This isn’t necessarily bad, remember you might not have heard them for years. This can be especially true for high-frequency sounds like the letters F or S. Since these sounds are especially important for understanding speech your clinician might encourage you to practice these specific sounds. Although they might be initially unpleasant, if any sounds seem too loud, uncomfortable, or painful you should let your clinician know right away, don’t wait for the next scheduled fitting.
And, it can also help to keep track of the different settings that you use. How often do you use a certain program or MAP? When did you use different features like Wind Noise Reduction or Microphone Directionality? Again, letting your clinician know about your hearing habits can help them to better adjust your settings.
(Of course it’s sometimes difficult to remember all of these settings, let alone when you’ve used them. Some processors, like the new MED-EL SONNET, have built-in Datalogging which saves information about these settings, but we’ll go into further detail on how exactly it works in a later post.)
After Your First Cochlear Implant Fitting, Practice Hearing!
Practice, practice, practice! After you leave your fitting, you might feel that sounds seem very different than before. That’s okay: as before, everyone’s hearing is different. The best way to improve your hearing and listening skills is to practice hearing and listening. How? You can start by asking your clinician for specific recommendations, or check out our rehabilitation activities and this blog post on how to improve your hearing and listening skills.