Telephone Practice

Being able to use the telephone represents both independence and connection for people with hearing loss.  It means being able to make calls for work without assistance, being able to give and receive information, and being able to make emotional connections with friends and family from miles away.  Learning, or re-learning, to use the phone with a CI may be difficult, but it is not an impossible task.  With practice, many cochlear implant recipients report success in using the telephone.  Here are some ways you can, too!

  • Enlist a patient friend or family member to be your first telephone practice partner.  Make multiple calls to this person using the suggestions below until you become more comfortable listening to different or unfamiliar speakers.


  • Some CI users prefer to start out listening to the telephone on a speakerphone setting with a hearing friend or family member listening in the background to help with any misunderstandings or clarifications as needed.


  • Experiment with different MAPs, settings (i.e. T-coil), and accessories (direct connect cables, amplified phones, etc.) until you find the best combination for you to listen to the telephone.


  • Start off conversing in quiet, with a familiar speaker (a voice you already know and understand face-to-face) on a topic that you decide beforehand.  Once you know the topic, you can narrow down vocabulary and more easily predict what is said.


  • Practice your repair and clarification strategies — just asking “What?” is tiresome and unspecific.  Try saying things like, “I heard you mention the name of a store, but I didn’t quite get it, could you please say the store name again?” or “Did you say Smith or Schmitt?”  Don’t give up and don’t be afraid to admit that you didn’t hear something correctly.  No bluffing!


  • When you’re ready, practice making short calls for information, like calling a movie theatre to check show times, or calling a restaurant to ask about their hours of operation.  Yes… I know you can find almost all of this information online without ever picking up a phone, but if you’re focused on telephone practice, you can go out of your way to find little opportunities like this to use the phone every day.


  • One of the most difficult telephone listening tasks is when the person on the other end of the line spells something, or gives you a string of letters.  Don’t be discouraged!  Remember that even people with “perfect” hearing ask for clarification in these situations and use aids like “B as in boy” etc.


Telephone with Confidence is a program presented by Cochlear that can be accessed for free by users of all types of CIs (or HAs).  The program provides a number that participants can call and each week there are word lists and passages read aloud as a recording.  PDF files of the word lists/passages are available on the website, so you can check your comprehension as you listen.  Give it a try!

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