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The short answer is about a year. The brain has to relearn how to hear emotion and tone from a low resolution signal. Emotion and tone are examples of indexical cues. CIs may sound "normal" after a year, but CIs don't provide enough information for hearing indexical cues as well as people with typical hearing.
Cochlear implants (CI) have low resolution hearing. They're great for making out words in quiet. They're ok for making out speech in noise. They do not do well at reproducing all the other stuff in speech. This "other stuff" is called indexical information. Just a few examples of indexical information are:
Indexical cues are an important part of "soft skills". These skills allow us to connect with others and work through relationship issues. Indexical cues are very important to understand what people really mean. Words can convey one meaning. Tone can mean the opposite.
Normal hearing people incorporate indexical cues and body language rapidly and on the fly. They do this seamlessly while they're hearing the words of what people say. This gives them the ability to "read others" and "read the room".
The information is still in the cochlear implant signal–it's just not very strong. It has little to do with the brand of cochlear implant. The auditory nerve doesn't do a good job at encoding pitch information.
At first, hearing indexical cues is sort of looking for a needle in a haystack. Over the next year, the brain learns how to hear this information. Once this happens, people think they're hearing "normally". But even after a year, it's still low resolution hearing. This never changes. People with CIs only hear half of indexical cues. Normal people can identify who's talking almost immediately. They can identify most emotion in voices. This is not a new finding.
In the real world, it's noisy and there are many subtle indexical cues. People may think that they are hearing tone when they are not. There are several places where this can break down.
"Soft skills" or the ability to connect and work with other people well. These skills are important for relationships and careers. Since CIs don't communicate tone well, how do you compensate? It's important to realize that you may not notice body language unless you're intentional about it.
Take a step back in the conversation. You may be able to stop listening to the words of what people say. Think about their body language. Here are some tips:
If you're in doubt of what a person means, it's great to say, "I'm hearing you say this. Is this accurate?" I sometimes directly tell a person, "I don't hear tone well, is this what you're meaning?"
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