In For Adults, Tips & Tricks

If you’re a cochlear implant recipient with Single-Sided Deafness (SSD) are you focusing your rehabilitation on your implanted ear? It may seem like an obvious question but often this can be overlooked simply because your “good” ear or non-implanted ear will automatically be doing the work so it’s easy to forget your implanted ear.

This article gives you two techniques, especially for those of you with Single-Sided Deafness,  that you can use to get the most out of rehabilitating your implanted ear. The techniques are called “free field” and “direct input”.

The Free Field Technique for Single-Sided Deafness

“Free field” means listening to sounds that exist in the air and are not sent directly to the audio processor. For example, a speaker’s voice or the sounds from computer speakers are examples of free field sounds.

If you have Single-sided Deafness, to get the most out of free field rehabilitation, it’s best to cover the better (or non-implanted) ear. You can do this by either using an ear plug or by covering it with something like earmuffs or your hand. This is so that you can focus on the sounds with just your implanted ear without being distracted by sounds heard by your better ear.

Here are a few free-field exercises that  you can do to train your implanted ear:

  • Listen to a friend say words or sentences, and then repeat them back
  • Read a short story or article, and then have someone else ask you questions about the story
  • Try out other cochlear implant rehabilitation exercises while covering your better ear such as:

Free field sounds can also be used to practice sound localization. But unlike the exercises above you should do these without plugging the better ear, because you need to use both ears to tell the direction of a sound.

Here are six ways that you can use free field sounds to practice sound localization. It can help to close your eyes when you’re doing these exercises, because that way you’ll be able to better focus on your hearing.

  • Recognize and localize a known sound that occurs in a known location.
    • Put your cell phone somewhere and have a friend call it.
    • Listen to it ring.
    • Because you know where it is located, your brain can connect its location and the sounds your ears hear.
  • Recognize and localize a known sound from an unknown location.
    • Get a friend to hide your cell phone and then call it. That way you won’t know where it is, but the ringtone will be familiar.
    • When you hear it ringing, you will use both your ears to determine what direction the sound is coming from.
  • Recognize and localize an unknown sound from an unknown location.
    • Have a friend change the ringtone on your phone, hide it, and let them call it. This way you won’t know where it is or how it will sound.
    • Listen for a ringing. Once you’ve heard the ringtone, then use both ears to determine what direction it is from you.
  • Recognize and localize a known sound from a known location, with background noise.
    • Turn on your television and set it at a low volume.
    • Put your cell phone somewhere and have a friend call it.
    • Listen to it ring.
    • Listen for a ringing. Once you’ve heard the ringtone over the noise of the television, your brain can connect its location and the sounds your ears hear.
    • For extra difficulty, try this again after turning up the TV’s volume.
  • Recognize and localize an unknown sound from an unknown location, with background noise.
    • Turn on your television and set it at a low volume.
    • Have a friend change the ringtone on your phone, hide it, and let them call it.
    • That way you won’t know where it is, and you won’t know what it will sound like.
    • Listen for the ringtone. Once you’ve heard it over the noise of the TV, then use both ears to determine what direction the sound is coming from.
    • For extra difficulty, try this again after turning up the TV’s volume.
  • Track a sound as it moves to a different location.
    • Have your friend play your cell phone’s ringtone as they walk around the room.
    • Listen to it ring.
    • Use both your ears to determine what direction the sound is coming from. Again this works really well when you close your eyes.

Remember, sound localization can be a difficult skill to develop for Single-Sided Deafness or for bilaterally implanted recipients. If you’re just starting, go easy on yourself and don’t be afraid of repeating the same exercises. Then as you’re comfortable with your localization skills go on to a more difficult exercise.

The Direct Input Technique for Single-Sided Deafness

The second rehabilitation technique for Single-Sided Deafness is using direct input because this sends the sounds straight to your implanted ear, so you don’t have to plug your better ear during your SSD rehabilitation exercises.

How? You can start by using an assistive listening device, like a Direct Audio Input cable or a telecoil neckloop. Then you can try out some of these exercises:

  • Connect to a cell phone and have a friend call you.
  • Connect to your computer to play back pre-recorded sounds like audio files or online videos.
  • Connect to an iPod to listen to music or audio books.
  • Connect to your TV or stereo system and watch the news or a movie.

Here are some of the different sounds that you can use to train your listening skills:

  • Have a telephone conversation:
    • With someone you know.
    • With someone whose voice you don’t know. For example, have a friend-of-a-friend call you. To keep the call stress-free, make sure that they know you use a hearing implant.
  • Get a friend or family member to speak:
    • A short sentence.
    • A long sentence.
    • Something slowly.
    • Something quickly.
  • Get a friend or family member to read a book:
    • with background noise.
    • without background noise.
    • while you read the book at the same time.
    • without having the book in front of you.
  • Listening to audiobooks or the news on television or radio:
    • While using subtitles, or having the book in front of you.
    • Without subtitles, or without the book in front of you.
  • Have someone speak short (like 2—3 syllable) nonsense words, like “da-ba-de” or “fa-la-da”, and try to recognize which vowels and consonants they use.

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What are your favorite rehabilitation exercises? If you have Single-Sided Deafness how do you prefer to rehabilitate?  Let us know in the comments section below or on our Facebook page.

This post was written with help from rehabilitation specialist Vanessa Hoffman.

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