While communication plays a large role in our everyday lives, communication can sometimes be difficult, especially for adults with cochlear implants.
It is common to feel frustrated and overwhelmed when communication becomes difficult, but there are things you can do.
While communication plays a large role in our everyday lives, communication can sometimes be difficult, especially for adults with cochlear implants. A cochlear implant bypasses damaged or nonfunctioning parts of the ear to create a representation of sound for the user, however it does not restore hearing or cure hearing loss.
Certain environments, like a noisy restaurant, can make communicating even more difficult. It is common to feel frustrated and overwhelmed when communication becomes difficult, but there are things you can do.
Watch the video below to see how Rebecca, an adult with a cochlear implant, overcomes difficult communication with a friend.
Communication breakdown occurs when the information being relayed is partly or completely incomprehensible between two people.
Understanding your communication strengths and weaknesses is a good way to prevent communication breakdowns before they happen.
Communication breakdown occurs when the information being relayed is partly or completely incomprehensible between two people. Communication breakdowns occur in difficult physical environments, such as a noisy restaurant, and during difficult social interactions, such as a speaker with an accent. Click to learn more about overcoming difficult physical environments and social interactions.
However, even in an optimal environment, communication breakdowns can happen when the speaker and listener are not using good communication strategies. Visit the communication strategies topic in this section to learn more.
Understanding your communication strengths and weaknesses is a good way to prevent communication breakdowns before they happen. For example, if you know you have difficulty communicating in groups of three or more, you can better prepare and adapt for communication in this situation. If you know you have difficulty understanding speakers with accents, you can better prepare for communication with this type of speaker. Click here to take a communication assessment to find out your strengths and weaknesses.
Communication is a partnership. It is important for both the speaker and listener to use optimal communication strategies.
Use the following communication strategies to optimize communication.
1. Explain your hearing loss and the limitations of your cochlear implant: Many communication partners will not fully understand the limitations of cochlear implants, so you may need to explain how to best communicate with you.
2. Make specific requests and explain why: Many communication partners may be unsure of the best ways to communicate with adults with cochlear implants or hearing loss. When you need them to change something about their speech, be as specific as possible to avoid a miscommunication. For example, “I need to read your lips. Can you please lower your hand from your mouth when you are speaking?” or “I am having some trouble hearing you. Can you please talk a little louder?”
3. Use “I” statements: “I” statements ensure that you are expressing your feelings without making the communication partner feel attacked or defensive. For example, “I am having a hard time hearing. Can we step into a quieter room to talk,” rather than “You do not speak loud enough, I cannot hear you.”
4. Ask for topic words: Asking for context and topic words can help you figure out what the conversation is about. For example, if you know the topic is about your family member’s new job, you will know to listen for words like “boss, salary, or interview.”
5. Rephrase rather than repeat: Sometimes asking a communication partner to repeat what they said with a specific change (i.e. slower, more clearly, etc.) is effective. However, because adults with cochlear implants often have difficulty hearing specific sounds and words, it is sometimes more effective to ask your communication partner to rephrase what he/she said. This will also give you more context and topic words about what they are talking about.
6. Ask for written or nonverbal communication: Sometimes it is best to ask for alternative communication. For example, ask a restaurant waiter to bring you a list of the daily specials rather than saying them. Or, ask a friend to take written notes for you during a presentation at your volunteer organization. It is helpful to carry a notepad in case you need written communication.
7. Speak up when you do not understand: Speak up when you do not understand what is being said in the conversation. It may be difficult and embarrassing at first, but your friends and family members want you to contribute to the conversation, and it gets easier with practice. Click here to download a script for practicing communication strategies alone or with your friends and family. Building your confidence to express your needs is also an important aspect of communication – visit the self-advocacy section to learn more.