Q: My wife has been having trouble hearing for a number of years. She just purchased new hearing aids and she is still saying: "Huh? and What?" The audiologist said she has poor word discrimination and that it would take up to six months to train her brain. Can you please explain?

A: Poor word discrimination is the fancy way to say she has trouble understanding speech even if the volume of the voice is loud enough. You may ask, "What good is the hearing aid if it can't help her understand me?" For her to be able to try and understand your speech she first has to be able to hear it. A hearing aid will help this. It cannot restore or repair a poor ability to understand as this usually has more to do with the way the sound travels through the hearing system and particularly up the nerve pathways to the brain than the amount of sound delivered at the eardrum.

Q: Why does my Nucleus 5/6 activate whenever I’m on or near a Melbourne tram?

A: If a cochlear implant recipient is using Autotelecoil they may find that the telecoil activates when they enter a looped area. This can sometimes be surprising if the looped area is not obvious e.g. a train station, tram, exhibition at a museum etc. Also if the telecoil is enabled the wearer may be more susceptible to interference from the environment.

Q: My audiologist has given me daily listening practice to do at home with a practice partner, but I live alone and have no-one to practice with consistently. Are there other ways I can improve my hearing skills?

A: This is a common challenge for many people with implants and even people with hearing aids. One gentleman who lived in a remote community literally had no-one within 100kms of his home. He trained himself to listen with his cochlear implant by watching a ten minute clip from a DVD with subtitles over and over. The clip he chose had dialogue with little or no sound effects or background music. Then when he felt he knew the text fairly well, he would watch it again without the sub-titles. He would often watch the same clip 20-30 times.

Q: Why does my dearest, after having an implant, still ask me to repeat myself?

A: This is a very common complaint. In everyday life people tend to talk to each other from a variety of distances and angles in relation to the ear wearing the sound processor - so not everything that is said is fully captured by the microphones. In addition, the implant recipient may only realise something was said to them after a few seconds delay, which means they missed the beginning of the sentence.

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