Hearing loss can be a problem for the whole family, not just the individual. Below are a few strategies that can help with effective communication at home:
- Maintain eye contact : Face the speaker and maintain eye contact. Facial expressions and body language add vital information to communication
- Gain attention: Gain the listener’s attention before you begin talking. If the person with hearing loss hears better from one ear, move to that side of the person.
- Keep hands away from face: When talking, try to keep your hands a way from your face. You will produce clearer speech and allow the listener to make use of those visual cues.
- Speak naturally: Speak distinctly, but without exaggeration. You do not need to shout. Shouting may actually distort the words. Try not to mumble. Speak at a normal rate, not too fast or too slow. Use pauses rather than slow speech to give the person time to process what you are saying.
- Rephrase rather than repeat: If the listener has difficulty understanding something you said, find a different way of saying it. If he or she did not understand the words the first time, it’s likely he or she will not understand the words the second time.
- Converse away from background noise: Try to reduce background noise if possible. Turn off radio or television. Move to a quiet space away from the noise source. When going to a restaurant, ask for a table away from the kitchen, server stations, or large parties.
- Move to an area with good lighting: Sit where there is good lighting so that your face can be more easily seen. Avoid strong lighting coming from behind you, such as through a window.
A cochlear implant can be a life changing treatment for people with severe hearing loss who receive little benefit from hearing aids. An important component of the cochlear implant process is to approach the first several weeks after activation with realistic expectations, commitment and patience. A cochlear implant is designed to bypass the damaged hair cells of the hearing organ, the cochlea, and deliver sounds to the brain by directly stimulating the auditory nerve. The brain then interprets the sound as a meaningful message. This mechanism is very different than the way our natural hearing system is designed so right away the brain is unable to recognize the sounds delivered by the cochlear implant. The good news is that the brain is an amazing organ and capable of learning new things all the time. The brain will learn to recognize speech and environmental sounds with exposure, experience and practice.
Exposure: Once the cochlear implant is activated the brain needs to hear sound in order to begin to learn to adapt. Although conversation will likely sound strange and unclear at first the only way to make progress is to expose yourself to all kinds of sound; conversation, music, environmental sounds…anything!
Experience: A key part of cochlear implant process is experience; wearing the cochlear implant all day every day, allows speech and other sounds to become more pleasant and clear. Think of the adjustment to a cochlear implant as being a marathon rather than a sprint.
Practice: Finally practice, practice, practice! Similar to completing physical therapy exercises at home following a hip replacement surgery, listening therapy must be completed to teach the brain to listen with a cochlear implant. There are many types of listening exercises that can make practice enjoyable. These can be done on your own or with a partner.
Keep in mind everyone progresses at their own pace, have patience with the process and know that the benefits will be worth the journey.