Auditory rehabilitation, or listening therapy, is an important component in maximizing your success with a cochlear implant. A cochlear implant is designed for someone with very poor word understanding and limited benefit from hearing aids. A surgeon places the implant within the organ of hearing and then the device is activated by an audiologist.
The implant and external processor work together to pick up speech and environmental sounds and transmit them to the hearing nerve allowing the brain to hear the signal. This process bypasses the natural sensory cells of the inner ear and is therefore a very different way of delivering sound to the brain which means speech heard through a cochlear implant during the first several weeks can still be unclear. With time, follow up programming visits, and listening therapy speech becomes clear and more natural sounding.
Similar to the benefits of physical therapy after a knee replacement or shoulder repair, listening therapy allows the individual to maximize their benefit from the cochlear implant. Listening therapy involves exercises to train the brain to recognize the new incoming signals. Research tells us that individuals who complete consistent listening therapy in the first few weeks and months following cochlear implantation hear more clearly and demonstrate higher satisfaction than those who did not complete therapy.
Listening therapy has become much more accessible in recent years thanks to mobile apps and Bluetooth connectivity. Three apps typically recommended by audiologists at JHBI include:
These apps break speech into its more basic components and as recognition improves the exercises become more challenging. Other forms of listening therapy can include listening to and following along with audio books, listening to TV with the captions, and streaming podcasts.
Additionally, for those who may want a more structured approach, in-person or virtual therapy sessions can be led by a speech language pathologist who specializes in Auditory Verbal therapy. These sessions are often covered by insurance.
Learning to hear with a cochlear implant is a process but often a very rewarding one and can lead to better hearing and an improved quality of life.