There are lots of changes in the first months after someone receives a cochlear implant. There will be new sounds, new ways to communicate, and new rehabilitation activities just to name a few.
But then—maybe slowly or maybe overnight—you’ll think about your cochlear implant and say “okay, now what?”
Take this quote from MED-EL recipient William Mager.
It’s just a part of life now. Like my old hearing aid was. Like my glasses still are. I get up in the morning, I switch it on, I hear stuff. It’s pretty straightforward.
So, you can hear. What happens then? Is professional rehabilitation enough to get back into the swing of things?
Different Kinds of Rehab
In short, the answer is: not always.
Rehabilitation isn’t only 50-minute professional therapy sessions or specific take-home activities.
Rehabilitation can also focus on building or re-building a social life. This can be a big one of the big challenges for a person who has spent much of their adult life with a hearing loss. Progressive or age-related hearing loss can have significant negative impacts on someone’s social life.
Getting a cochlear implant can be the first step to rebuilding relationships. But, it’s not the only one. The next step is actively building, or re-building, social connections.
(Re)building with Rehabilitation
Here are some tips to take that next step:
- Like many things in life, lots of re-building social connections is about confidence.
- Reach out. Try to reconnect with people that you have known and liked in the past, but lost contact with. Start with letters or email. Use the telephone if you’re feeling confident in your phone skills.
- Meet people that have similar interests to you. It helps if you already know information about the topic like the words or terms that people use. This will help you to recognize what people are saying, and you’ll be able to concentrate more on the conversation instead of the words.
- Practice potential conversations or social situations with relatives and close friends.
- Find or start a support group in your local area, one for people with hearing loss or cochlear implants.
- Get involved in charity or volunteer programs where you can help others.
Also, be open about you and your hearing loss:
- Be honest about your thoughts and feelings with the people you’re talking with. If you’re having troubles understanding them for whatever reason, let them know. Some people isolate themselves, even if they want to be social, just because they can’t understand others.
- Let people know about your hearing loss. Most people are willing to communicate in ways that help you understand well, but can’t if they don’t know what’s happening or what to do to help.
- Explain how your hearing implant works—if others show some interest. The more information that you give them, the more they’ll understand how you hear.
- Keep track of the situations or environments when you have difficulty communicating. Practice communicating in situations like these. You might like to even record yourself having a conversation and then play it back with a friend. This will help you talk about your communication with someone, and discuss any ways you could improve.
And, regardless of how well you hear I know there may be times when it’s difficult. This happens to everybody, including those without a hearing implant. It’s important to be kind to yourself.
- Talk to a family member, friend or your hearing professional about the challenging situations. Plan ways to help you improve your communication skills in them.
- Build up a vocabulary of commonly used sentences and small talk. You could even write them down on flashcards or in your cell phone. Don’t just keep them in storage: practice listening to the words so you learn how they sound.
- Read, watch, and listen to news. This will help you learn about current events that you can use in conversation, and helps you understand how others talk about a specific topic.
For more ways to improve your communication, check out our blog post How You Can Have the Best Conversation Ever.
This post was written with help from Joanna Brachmair, a rehabilitation specialist at MED-EL.