If you’ve recently received a cochlear implant, it’ll probably be no surprise that there will be lots of growth and development in the first months. We’ve put together some articles about the first fitting, the first month of hearing, and the first three months of hearing, and now here’s the next big milestone: six months of hearing with a cochlear implant.
What will your hearing be like at month six? What will you do with your audiologist?
I’ve said it before and I can’t say it enough: “Everybody’s experience is different.” But, there are still some experiences that many cochlear implant recipients share. Here are some of them:
Settling into a Routine
For most cochlear implant recipients, the first three months or so of a cochlear implant is usually full of significant changes in hearing and correspondingly large adjustments to the processor’s hearing programs. This is because the brain and auditory system is learning and adapting to the cochlear implant’s electrical input.
It might have been a few months since you had your last appointment with your audiologist, and by the sixth month your audiologist probably won’t be making changes to your programs. But, your brain and auditory system will continue to adapt. Because of this your six-month appointment is more of a “safety net” where your audiologist will check up on your equipment and progress but usually won’t make any drastic changes.
Your audiologist might suggest doing some hearing tests, like the ones you had before receiving a cochlear implant. You may have tests to see how well you can detect sounds, like a typical hearing test, or the test might ask you to answer questions or repeat words or phrases. Then those results will be put onto an audiogram so you can compare how your hearing has progressed.
Some people have noticed that the test conditions are not “like real life” because it is very quiet in the testing area; audiologists do these tests because it’s useful to document how you are able to perform in ideal conditions, even though real life if much more complicated.
When you meet with your audiologist for your six-month checkup, it is also important to share how you’ve been hearing in the past months. Are there sounds you’ve been having difficulties hearing? Your audiologist might have some suggestions of strategies to hear these sounds better, if you don’t tell your audiologist then he or she won’t know what to tell you.
What About that Listening Diary?
Are you still keeping a listening diary? Here’s what we said in the 3 month post:
Tip: Get a journal, and at the end of each day write down a few sentences that answer questions like the ones just listed above. That way you don’t have to scratch your head and try to remember a whole month’s worth of experiences.
Now could be a good time to go through your last few months of hearing and take a look at the changes that have happened over time. Or, bring along this diary to the next appointment with your audiologist and look through it together—they might have some insights that you never considered.
Trying Out Technology
You might also think about looking into assistive listening devices (ALDs), which are devices that let you connect your audio processor directly to a sound source instead of using the built-in microphone. If you don’t know about ALDs, don’t be embarrassed because you’re not alone. Many recipients go years without thinking about ALDs.
Here’s a video of Evelyn using a telecoil, a type of ALD, for the first time—after having heard with a cochlear implant for years:
If you want to start listening to music, take advantage of technology! Online videos, like those on YouTube, often show the lyrics with the music so you can follow along. For example, Ring of Fire by Johnny Cash is a good song to start with because it’s got a defined beat and strong low-pitch voice.
If you’ve had your cochlear implant for a few months, does any of this sound familiar?