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Sharp Health News

Learning to hear again

May 22, 2018

Learning to hear again

Aural rehabilitation can help adults who experience hearing loss relearn how to listen and process sounds with a device like a cochlear implant.

Research has shown that adults make faster progress in their understanding of speech and sounds using aural rehabilitation.

According to Jordan Weber, a speech pathologist with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Centers, “Aural rehabilitation plays a critical role in a patient’s success using their hearing device in a variety of settings where hearing is particularly difficult. For example, sitting in a noisy restaurant, communicating with a group of loved ones or listening to everyday sounds in our environment like birds chirping, rain and car horns.”

Weber tells patients who receive a cochlear implant that it’s not a complete restoration of one’s hearing. “It does not give immediate and complete benefits, the way glasses provide instantaneous improvement to one’s eyesight,” she says.

“A lot of time, work and patience accompany a cochlear implant,” she adds. “You need to retrain your brain with the device to receive optimal benefit.”

“Aural rehabilitation can be broken into four parts at Sharp Rees-Stealy,” Weber says. “Our multidisciplinary team includes doctors specializing in ear, nose and throat (ENT), an audiologist and a speech language pathologist (SLP).”

The first step: The patient manages the hearing loss by receiving a device, if applicable, that would optimize hearing. (For example, a hearing aid and/or cochlear implant.)

The second step: Instruction. The team collectively and extensively educates the patient on how to use the technology and how to control the listening environment. For example, using add-on assistive devices to help boost the sound through a phone or television.

The third step: Perceptual training. The patient engages in activities, such as online training modules, or is placed in specific listening environments to improve speech perception and communication.

The fourth step: Counseling the family and the patient on the expectations in relation to the patient’s hearing loss and efficacy of their device. Having family support and understanding a patient’s hearing situation is crucial to overall success.

Weber suggests the following tips for patients who have just received a cochlear implant:
  • Become an assertive listener and concentrate on what is being said.
  • Observe the speaker and look for visual cues like body language that will aid in what you hear.
  • Take breaks; listening can be exhausting. You listen better when you’re fresh.
  • Make specific suggestions to aid the talker, instead of “what?” say “please slow down.”
  • Provide feedback and tell your conversation partner what you heard to clarify information.
  • Set realistic expectations; some places might be too noisy to understand clearly.

“Ultimately, aural rehab helps assist patients on their journey with hearing loss by providing them tools to utilize during moments of frustration,” says Weber.

Talk with your doctor if you are experiencing hearing loss. Learn more about Sharp Rees-Stealy audiology and hearing services.

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