When I decided to pursue the cochlear implant, I knew that it was going to take time to train my brain to listen with it. Many people continue to ask me what I think of the CI. At this point in the journey, I say that I continue to make progress, new discoveries, and understand speech more. My colleagues at work (audiologists and SLPs) have commented that they have noticed that I am hearing much better and that my speech has become a little more crisp. The other day I thought that my hearing aid battery had died. After a quick squeal check, I realized that the battery was not dead. This is one of my first tangible moments that I have realized that my cochlear implant is giving me more access to the auditory world than my hearing aid. My hearing aid will continue to be worn in my right ear regardless as I want to keep my right ear activated as much as it possibly can be.
Which brings me to my next topic blog….Work Out Plan for the CI! When I tell people that I am putting myself through intensive listening therapy, I sometimes get a blank look. What do you mean you have to go through therapy? Isn’t wearing the CI enough to figure out what is going on in the world? As an audiologist, I recommend that all the students that I work with enroll in therapy after they get a CI. As a patient going through this process, this recommendation is a must!
Have you ever started a workout plan? I feel like the journey to hearing with a cochlear implant is like following a committed work out plan. When you decide to commit to becoming more fit and healthy, there are several things that a person typically will do. First, maybe you go get a new pair of workout shoes, then find a fitness coach/instructor that can help you set your goals and motivate you, you may start tracking your body metrics, challenge yourself, and eat and sleep better.
When people ask me about how I am doing with a cochlear implant, I compare this journey to being committed to a work out plan.
- Get the Gear! For me, this is my commitment to wearing the cochlear implant during all waking hours.
- Get a Fitness Instructor! For me, this is Denise Wray. She is an auditory verbal therapist that is willing to work with me weekly. She asks about any new discoveries. Then we dive into listening therapy. I take out my hearing aid and put in an earplug. Recently we have been working on minimal word pairs, repeating sentences, and listening to small paragraphs to build my auditory skills. Having a fitness instructor for listening has been a cornerstone for my continued motivation to keep improving. When someone holds you accountable, you keep on track. I am grateful for my Fitness Listening Instructor!
- Track Your Progress! For me, this is setting my timer for 30 minutes practicing my listening skills through a listening app (See my screenshot below). Each day I test my “Ling 6 Sounds” which let me know if the Cochlear Implant is able to detect and discriminate the frequency range that is important to hearing (oo, ah, ee, m, sh, s, and no sound). The I start doing an auditory hierarchy of listening exercise. For example, I listen to speech sounds with differing consonants and decide which word is being presented. Examples such as toe/doe, peas/bees, whale/male, moo/zoo, C/Z, shoe/chew, tea/key, map/nap, night/light and the word combinations and the # of words in each set increase. For someone with normal hearing, you may be thinking…really, you cannot determine the difference between these words. For me and my new CI, it takes intense concentration and energy to practice. However, when I practice, I am totally in tune to what these sounds are. I am paying close attention to the fine distinctions between the sh and ch sounds. Some of the APPS that I have found helpful are the following: HearCoach, HEAROES, and Speech ID 2.
- Challenge Yourself to the Next Listening Level! For me, this has been finding podcasts and books to stream via blue tooth to my cochlear implant. It takes all the concentration in the world to make sense of what I am listening to, but I am continuously amazed at how I am able to understand more and more. I love to listen with intentionality and fully hear what I know I have never heard before! Right now I have been listening to our church sermon podcasts. I have heard it once live, so listening again to the podcast becomes easier. I am also listening to the audio book “Girl, Wash Your Face” by Rachel Hollis. I am also reading the book giving me preteaching of knowledge.
- Eat Healthy and Rest! Just like working out physically, developing listening skills takes a lot of energy and intentionality. I am exhausted at the end of the day when I have put myself through the challenges of navigating the acoustical transitions of the hearing world. Eating well and getting a good night’s sleep is essential. There have been a few times when I needed to have a “listening break” during the day because what I am trying to take in through listening is taxing. I have found a listening break is equivalent to a power nap. An article found online at VeryWell Mind reports that a mid-day sleep, or a ‘power nap’, means more patience, less stress, better reaction time, increased learning, more efficiency, and better health. I have to admit that I have found a 15 minute power nap (without my cochlear implant) is all I need on some days to keep in gear for the rest of the day!
Whatever area of your life you need to improve, I challenge you to start that work out plan!