I am finding that as I am learning to hear with my new cochlear implant (CI), I also need to teach others how to talk to me. Because as the audiologist reminds me, I am the only one who knows how I hear things, and therefore I am the one who must educate others. Deaf people with CIs may have similarities in how they hear, but will likely experience it very differently from one another. So, even if someone knows someone else with a CI and thinks they know, they need to be open to learning how each person hears. If they want to be heard, of course.
So, hear are the main things I tell people:
- Speak at a normal volume. I’ll tell you if it’s not loud enough, or just turn up the volume on my earpiece.
- Clearly enunciate your words as close to naturally as possible (unless you’re my family from Georgia, then just talk like a Yankee, for Pete’s sake).
- Make sure I can see your lips moving, and if you must turn your head, stop talking before you do.
- Surrounding noises, if loud enough, will drown out your voice. If it’s constant background noise, I may not be aware of it, so let me know it’s present and suggest to move to a quieter spot.
- Sudden loud noises, like a door slamming or a car alarm going off, will completely take over, and essentially interrupt what you are saying. If that happens, I will likely just ask you to repeat whatever you just said.
Above all, be patient. And please, don’t ever throw up your hands and say “never mind”. Just like any hearing person, deaf people want to communicate with others. I was deafened late in life. I did not grow up learning and communicating with others through sign language. Speaking verbally with others is all I know, and it’s extremely important to me. I, like so many others, took a leap of faith to have a computer permanently implanted into my skull. So you can bet with 100% certainty that CI users CARE about hearing what you have to say. I know I do!