Monday, October 7, 2013

October 7, 2013

Cochlear Implant Challenges
For People Living Alone
Monday,  October 7, 2013

The last few days I have been thinking about how a Cochlear Implant has unique challenges for a person living alone.  Maybe I was just thinking about them more because my husband was out of town for the weekend.  My audiologist had first brought this to mind when she became fascinated with the possibilities of patients being helped with the Immersion Reading that I was doing on my Kindle Fire.  This is where I read a book and listen to it being read at the same time, following along reading the printed words as I hear them. 

After calling the audiologist with a question last week, Ron went, for the first time, to the Cochlear website as she suggested and looked up some information.  He was astounded as he read comments by many of the users at how they could understand nothing that they heard through the implant after initial activation.  Our audiologist, Sherry Taxman, had warned us of that repeatedly prior to activation, and we knew that was a very common outcome - at least that the patient didn't understand a lot of what they heard. 

When my Cochlear Implant was activated, I could understand every thing that Sherry was saying to me.  She does speak very clearly, but I had little difficulty understanding speech in quiet settings.  There are times even now when I can't understand a particular word and will ask repeatedly for it to be said again.  I also struggle a lot in noisy situations, but the problem is "pulling the conversation out of the background noises" in those cases, not that the sounds are electronic sounding to me. 

Reading those comments last week brought it into focus for both of us how much we have to be thankful for in the outcome of my results.  It also made me think of those who do not have the same experience, and especially those living alone who don't hear a familiar voice all day long.  It takes constant practice to improve the outcome that is desired with the implant. 

Tonight I spent about an hour doing the Immersion Reading.  It is rare that I must depend on the printed words to figure out what was said in the spoken reading as I listen.  These books are read by professional actors, so their enunciation is clear.  It may take a little bit at the first of the book to get used to the voice, but it is like sitting next to a friend who is reading to you.  For a person living alone and trying to adapt to the Cochlear Implant, this could be a blessing!

The other thing that struck me this weekend, was how when I wore a hearing aid, I would want to take it off the minute I walked in the door after work.  Hearing aids are not comfortable.  The Cochlear Implant is far better than the hearing aid in that respect, since there is nothing sticking "in" my ear.  There is no annoying sensation where the coil is held onto my scalp by a magnet.  It is easy to forget it is there.  But the sound processor that I wear behind my ear, like a behind the ear hearing aid, is a little uncomfortable.  I do sometimes forget it is there, but other times I want to take it off and rest a while. 

When I first got my hearing aid about 9 years ago, the hearing aid specialist who was helping at the time kept emphasizing the need to wear it all the time when I was awake (except in the shower or bath).  You MUST wear it to adapt to it.  Your brain can't adjust to it while it sits in the case in the drawer.  Just wearing it when you go to church or the grocery store only keeps your brain confused.  So knowing that it is very tempting to take off my sound processor in the evenings, I can only imagine how tempting that is for a person living alone who knows they are missing no conversations when they don't have it on. 

Another adjustment is in learning to use the remote control.  I often select an average setting for the surroundings and leave it alone, but more and more often, I am experimenting to find the best setting for the situation.  Tonight as Ron and I sat down to supper at the dining table, I asked if the obnoxious noise our refrigerator makes is getting worse or if it was just me noticing it more.  He said it is bad, but that also we were by the return air for the air conditioner and that had always been loud.  I had the remote set on the noisy setting (to take down background noises), but got it out and changed it to the everyday setting, lowered the volume, and made the range smaller so that it was mostly picking up just Ron and not the various noises.  That made a huge difference.  Again, a person living alone doesn't have those varied situations for practicing.

There are  a few times I have taken the sound processor off because the noises are overwhelming.  When hearing has been bad for many years, the everyday sounds can just be too much some days.  A few times I have taken mine off, or turned it way down, but I don't leave it off long.  I mentioned a couple of days ago that I took it off at the end of the day when I was trying to get my grand daughters to go to sleep and they were having giggle spells!  I love to hear them laugh together, but I am not used to it.  It had been a long day and the best choice at the time for me was to remove the sound processor.  I was in the same room with them, so I could tell if they needed me, but I needed a break from the constant sounds.

Listening to television, I still use the closed captioning and am so thankful for that option.  Many of the comedy shows have very fast dialog.  I am dealing with various voices, unknown content in the story, and the fast speech.  All of those things add to the difficulty of following the story line.  In the news, I think I do better.  The news anchors are trying to enunciate clearly and with pictures accompanying the story, I do fairly well. 

Practice, Practice, Practice!  Things are getting better. 

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