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.