Monday, May 6, 2013

Monday Misunderstanding 4: Communication Skills Suck When You're Hearing Impaired

Today, I received praise from my audiologist. 

In terms of "testing" my hearing, Dr. Sharon decided to call from her cell phone to mine, allowing me to try out the telecoil function on my cochlear implant processor. Telecoil technology can better separate background noise from the sounds someone wants to hear, such as a TV at a distance, or a voice on the telephone.  This pairing of telecoil technology with cochlear implants (or hearing aids) bridges the physical space between a person and the sound source.

I've tried the telecoil a few times during rehab exercises and work conference calls, but each time with limited success.   That trend continued today. 

I struggled.  I could feel the frustrated tears rise to the surface, my inner dialogue growing more defiant by the second.

I don't give a crap about the telecoil right now.  I just want to be able to understand my kids in the car.  My coworkers when they speak to me.  A friend in a restaurant.

Quickly, I said, "I don't want to do this anymore.  Let's move on."

Each time I meet with my audiologist, I get nervous about the time. 

Maybe you identify if you've ever had a pressing health concern and you finally catch that in-demand specialist.  You want to make the best use of that face time and today, I didn't go in with high hopes of telecoiling.

My expectations have lowered significantly.  I just want better in-person speech clarity.

So I did not get praise for being patient and kind during the telecoil experiment.   A polite hear-er with the telecoil, I am not. 

However, Dr. Sharon called me a GOOD LISTENER.  A GOOD COMMUNICATOR.

I was a bit taken aback by her feedback, maybe because I feel so tongue-tied when it comes to explaining how I hear to her.  She often spends way over an hour with me, but still, it flies by, and  that time to me is precious.  I want to ensure I'm communicating as best I can to achieve optimal mapping. 

Here are some of my descriptions I've used when describing CI hearing thus far (I'd love to hear what others say):
  • For a few months, each time someone said "Ch" or "Sh," it felt like the person was flicking me in the head.  As you can imagine, I felt that way often.
  • In the last month, each time Claire clapped her hands (and this is often, as she opts to dance place to place instead of walk), it felt like once again, I was getting head-flicked.  No fun.
  • I say sometimes it's like a pounding headache, but only for a few seconds in the implant location.
  • I use phrases like "voices sound like they have two layers" and "there are holes in sentences"
  • I use words like "echo" and "squeak" and "static" and "robotic"
Does this accurately convey my experiences?  Sometimes, I'm not sure. 

But Dr. Sharon assured me I'm a good listener.  After conducting a comfort test within each of the CI's electrodes, one by one, gaining my feedback after each and every beep, she said I'm "in tune" with what I'm hearing.

I believe many hearing impaired people are, ironically, good communicators.  In my case, I know I'm good at reading visual cues.  Body language, facial expressions, where a person looks when speaking-- all of these factors have aided my intuitive capabilities in the workplace and beyond.  I also double-check a lot; I rephrase and repeat.  I'm all the more conscientious and want to be sure I understand completely.  I pay attention (it's exhausting, at times-- but I still do it) and I believe this brings better results in my life- both at home and in my professions- and also makes other people feel acknowledged and appreciated.

So am I a good listener with my new mapping?  Only time will tell.  But it's doctor-approved that I'm hearing impaired and my communication skills don't suck.

What about you?  How do you communicate successfully with doctors?  With hearing professionals?


  1. YES! Flicking me in the head with every sh and ch sound! YES, YES, YES! It's sooooo annoying!!

    1. Hi, it's been awhile since I've been on my blog, but I saw your comment and wanted to offer suggestions. I had several electrodes SHUT OFF COMPLETELY and this made a MAJOR difference when it came to the intensities of sounds such as "ch" and "sh." Wanted to share in case you want to bring it up with your audiologist. Thanks for reading!

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