Hearing loss can be tricky. We want to think we have a handle on it, but it takes a little more care and attention than we’re often ready to give it. Especially when we’re new to hearing loss, we may be more apt to remember the times when we were able to carry on a conversation easily—such as when a friend with a loud voice stopped by for a one-on-one chat—than the times when hearing loss made it nearly impossible to communicate.
Hearing Loss Can Make Conversation Prohibitively Difficult
We may not be used to thinking of it this way, but one of the biggest problems in the early stages of hearing loss is the exhaustion that it brings with it. Especially in a crowded room, like a restaurant or an extended family gathering, trying to listen to what someone is saying can really wear us out! A lot of people mistake this fatigue for a separate condition, perhaps related to their age— “I just can’t stay out as late as I used to!”If we are reasonably polite people, we may start to feel bad for asking everyone to repeat themselves. At some point, the line gets blurred between our own fatigue and frustration, and our desire to let other people speak freely without asking them to accommodate our hearing needs. Somewhere in that blur, we might start to pretend to hear.We’ve all done it! Even people with normal hearing have been known to pretend to hear in a crowded place, in hopes that the conversation will move forward. Unfortunately, pretending to hear can become a habit, especially for those of us who regularly struggle to hear what another person is saying. At best, this means we’re not really connecting with the people we’re talking to. At worst, we may offend someone, or even make a critical mistake at work.
Pretending to Hear Is Not a Long-Term Solution
It’s important when we catch ourselves pretending to hear, to note that we’re doing it, even if it didn’t cause any problems this time. Pretending to hear is not a long-term solution to our hearing issues! We might get away with it once or twice, but over time it whittles away at our feeling of connectedness, and friends and loved ones will start to suspect that we have memory issues when we’re never able to remember our conversations with them!
Hearing Loss Affects Memory
Even mild hearing loss is known to cause legitimate memory issues. This is likely because the extra effort it takes to understand what we are hearing moves the project of speech comprehension outside our auditory cortex and to other parts of the brain. This affects our memory of our conversations in two ways.First, the auditory cortex is located very close to the center of the brain for short-term memory. Normally, the process of understanding speech and remembering it in the short term happens automatically. By employing other parts of the brain for speech understanding, the distance that our eventual understanding has to travel to be consolidated in short-term memory is greater, and we are likely to lose some of it.Second, this process takes more energy. Those other parts of the brain that we are employing to understand speech are usually used for thinking about the speech we’ve heard, making connections to other things in our memory, and formulating responses. If the conversation is taking place at a normal pace, our brain is simply overtaxed. This is also how hearing loss wears us out, but our decreased ability to remember our conversations happens by the same process.
Hearing Aids Can Help
If you haven’t kept up with hearing aid technology in the last few years, it may be worth taking a look again. Hearing aids can now perform some pretty magical operations, thanks to advances in computer audio processing technology.Nearly all hearing aids employ DSP (digital signal processing) which reduces background noise at the same time as it amplifies speech. This technology is extremely useful in more chaotic environments and can help you follow a conversation much more closely even when other conversations may be happening nearby.Directionality is also common in hearing aids today. By engaging the directional program in your hearing aids, they will automatically prioritize sound that is coming from in front of you. Simply look in the direction of the sound you want to hear, and it will be louder than everything else around you.If you or a loved one is having hearing issues, don’t pretend to hear! Make an appointment for a hearing test today and find out what hearing aids can do to ensure you never miss a word!
Hearing loss is a reality for some 48 million Americans. About 1 out of 500 babies is born with some type of hearing loss, and it can appear in the course of our lives in a number of ways— But, by far, the most common type of problematic hearing loss is age-related hearing loss, or “presbycusis.” About one-third of those aged 60–69 have hearing loss, and two-thirds of those aged 70 and up have it. By age 100, nearly everyone has hearing loss, suggesting we will all experience it eventually if we only live long enough.Hearing loss can bring with it a few unfortunate side effects, like depression, anxiety, brain atrophy, and even earlier onset of cognitive decline and dementia. New studies are released all the time outlining the damage that untreated hearing loss can do. But before hearing loss causes any health problems, it is first and foremost an impediment to connection. Hearing loss makes it harder to communicate, and that throws up a barrier between us and the people we love.If someone you love is having hearing issues, it’s important to do your best to maintain a connection with them. Hearing loss can be frightening, and people often go through a period of denial before accepting that they have hearing loss and need to start treating it with hearing aids. There are a few things you can do to help your loved ones with hearing loss to stay connected, wherever they are along their hearing journey.
A Little Empathy, a Little Patience
Hearing loss is frustrating for everyone involved. It’s important to try to remember that your loved one’s experience of the world around them is different than yours as a result of their hearing loss. While it can be frustrating to see them struggle differently in different situations, it’s important to try to understand what they’re experiencing, as this will help them to better-understand their experience, as well. The more they can articulate their own concerns about hearing loss, the more it will become clear to them that hearing aids are a good idea!
Avoid Bustling Environments
Hearing loss may not pose that much of a problem in the course of a one-on-one conversation in a quiet room, but things can change drastically inside a restaurant or bar, when the environment becomes more chaotic. Add in more voices to the conversation, and it becomes worse. Trying to hear in these conditions is exhausting for a person with hearing loss, so try to understand they may need to leave early, or that they may not want to go to a busy restaurant or bar, even if that means you have to miss out on your favorite meal or cocktail.Some larger restaurants have some quieter areas that may be appropriate. When you’re being seated, keep this in mind and ask for the quietest table they have. This will usually be away from the kitchen, the register, and the doorway. Some places may even accommodate a request to have the music turned down, or the lights turned up.
Emphasize the Visual
Dimly lit environments can also be problematic, as lips and facial expressions are harder to read. Hearing loss makes us more reliant on these visual cues to follow a conversation, so try to keep the light levels up and keep your lips visible while you speak.Similarly, if you’re used to having phone calls with your loved one, suggest that maybe they’d prefer a video call. This might be more fun, anyway!
A few guidelines can go a long way in terms of making yourself verbally understood.
Don’t Shout – Speaking a little louder is a good idea, but don’t break out of your normal speaking voice. Shouting sounds different than talking, and words might get confused. Shouting can also distort the ears, or a set of hearing aids, which can make what you’re saying even less intelligible.
Insert Some Space – Don’t draw out your vowel sounds, but simply add a little extra pause between each word you speak.
Rephrase – If your loved one didn’t understand what you just said, try saying it a different way, rather than saying the same thing again. By rephrasing, you add more information that will provide a different set of context clues, and your loved one will be more likely to comprehend.
When we think of noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL), many of us immediately conjure an image of a rock concert—a big stage with huge guitar amplifiers, and a massive PA system that seems like it could project sound to the other side of the world. Maybe you’ve been to a concert like this, without wearing hearing protection, and had the experience of your ears ringing for a day or two afterward.
Musicians Are at an Increased Risk of Hearing Loss
Of course, the musicians and other professionals who put on these concerts are not exposed just once, but nearly every night for the duration of the tour. While the use of hearing protection is now ubiquitous among entertainment professionals, this was not the case for the first few decades in which these “megaconcerts” were taking place.The list of famous entertainers who have hearing loss and/or tinnitus (ringing in the ears) is long. Huey Lewis canceled his tour in 2018, announcing that he could no longer hear music clearly enough to sing. Both Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend of The Who have lived with hearing loss for many years now. Neil Young, Jeff Beck, and even Coldplay’s Chris Martin suffer from persistent tinnitus. Martin says his tinnitus is even accompanied by debilitating headaches.
Not Just Rock&Rollers
While it’s tempting for those in the hearing care industry to lean on the stories of these rock musicians to spread the word about hearing loss, focusing on famous rock and roll stars can be misleading. This is because it doesn’t take a stadium full of sound to cause NIHL, and the majority of musicians who suffer from hearing loss are not rock musicians.Legendary jazz musician Herbie Hancock has also battled hearing loss, and was fitted with hearing aids in 2006, saying at the time that he wished he had worn earplugs throughout his career. While jazz is often played in smaller clubs and sometimes even without sound reinforcement, the sound produced by horns and drummers can easily damage hearing, especially when we consider that performance is only part of a jazz musician’s routine. Practice, teaching, and rehearsal can all contribute to the development of hearing loss, even though these activities may not reach the loudness levels of a Who concert.Classical musicians, just the same as jazz musicians, spend a great deal of time in practices, rehearsals, and teaching. Orchestral players, by and large, have the greatest likelihood of developing hearing loss among musicians. Regular exposure to the sound levels achieved inside an orchestra is a recipe for hearing loss.
Noise-induced hearing loss isn’t just about the loudness of the sound you experience, but also the duration. While it is possible for a sound to be so loud that it instantly causes permanent deafness, this is extremely rare. Most NIHL is accrued over a long period of time, little by little, day by day.Sound levels averaging as soft as 85 dBA (decibels A-weighted) can cause permanent hearing loss after about 8 hours of exposure. 85 dBA is the low end of a cello’s dynamic range. For every additional 3 dBA, the safe time of exposure is cut in half. That means that sound levels reaching 100 dBA cause hearing loss in about 15 minutes. The upper end of a cello’s dynamic range is around 111 dBA. At that volume level, hearing loss occurs in a little over one minute.Decibel levels get lower as we move further away in space from the sound source. In fact, for every doubling of distance from the position at which dBA is measured, the level will drop a little over 6 dBA. So if we stand two feet from a cellist and measure the average level of their music at 110 dBA, by simply taking a step back (2 more feet) we reduce our experienced sound level to 104 dBA. Take two more steps back (now a total of 8 feet away) and our ears are receiving about 98 dBA. Understanding this principle can make it easier to see why a musician themself would be more likely to sustain hearing loss than even their most ardent supporter!
Custom Hearing Protection
If you are a musician or music fan, custom hearing protection is a must-have. Many OTC earplugs claim to offer “natural sound” but always seem to change the sound of the music. Custom earplugs are designed to fit your ear canals perfectly, and can be fitted with a range of attenuators that will be appropriate to the sound levels you expect to experience. Best of all, they provide the most accurate representation of the frequency spectrum of any earplugs available. Music sounds truly natural, so you can play naturally.
If you’re like most people, you probably haven’t spent much time mulling over the idea of “auditory deprivation.” While it is related to hearing loss, it’s not the first thing we think of when it comes to hearing loss. It can take years for it to cause problems, or even for us to notice it!“Deprivation” means we’re taking something away. In the case of auditory deprivation, we’re taking away audio… but from what?—From our brain.
The Auditory Cortex and Auditory Deprivation
A certain area of our brains is designated for processing sound. It’s called the “auditory cortex,” and it sits in the lower part of the brain, behind the ears, right in the center. For human beings, the sound is inextricably linked with speech. We have evolved to communicate with one another, and our auditory cortex is a specialized instrument for recognizing speech, automatically interpreting it as language, and shunting it directly to our short-term memory, which sits directly adjacent to the auditory cortex.The word deprivation is fitting because our brain expects to encounter lots of sound from our ears. Even when we’re not really paying attention, our brain is hard at work interpreting information from our ears. It picks up cues that help orient us in space and monitors the environment for something that should get our attention. When we take that information away from our brain, we are certainly depriving it.
Hearing Loss and Neuroplasticity
For most of us, most of the time, hearing loss sets in very slowly. We don’t notice that we’re hearing less and less. Usually, the first time we notice hearing loss is when another person tells us we have it. On average, from the time a person first notices hearing loss, it takes them seven years to get a hearing test and start the process of getting a set of hearing aids.That’s unfortunate because auditory deprivation can have some pretty unsettling effects on the brain. Even mild hearing loss, when left untreated, will cause changes in the brain. This is because of a process called “neuroplasticity.”When one area of the brain isn’t getting used, our brilliant brains reallocate precious resources to other areas. The auditory cortex begins to literally collapse. It’s not that the brain cells die, but the grey matter between them will dissipate, shrinking the structure. While the brain cells may still be there, they can’t work effectively when they’re so collapsed.There is some evidence that, as the auditory cortex shrinks, the visual cortex is enlarged. This allows our brains to rely more on information from our eyes than our ears. While this may be a good thing for young people being raised in deaf culture, it may not be so good for those of us experiencing age-related hearing loss. Untreated hearing loss has been linked to cognitive decline and dementia, with the risk increasing by the degree of hearing loss:
Mild hearing loss – 2x risk of dementia
Moderate hearing loss – 3x risk of dementia
Severe hearing loss – 5x risk of dementia
Setting the increased risk of Alzheimer’s aside, there is a more immediate reason that auditory deprivation is something you’ll want to avoid: It will take away your ability to understand speech, even when you can hear it clearly!
Get Hearing Aids Sooner, Not Later!
Many people wish to put off getting hearing aids until their hearing becomes “really bad.” While we understand that hearing aids are a major expense that have a non-zero impact on our daily habits, this thinking unfortunately doesn’t hold up when we look at the changes that occur while someone is living with untreated hearing loss.It does seem that the auditory cortex can be rehabilitated, but this takes effort. Training classes are available that can help us learn to listen again. Over time, we can reap the benefits that hearing aids provide.But consider this: What will you have been missing out on during those years of auditory deprivation? It’s not just changes in the brain that concerns us, but changes in lifestyle. How many conversations will you miss out on? How many gatherings with friends and family will you pass up or be unable to enjoy?The best way to deal with a new hearing loss is to start wearing hearing aids as soon as they’re recommended by a hearing care professional. Hearing aids prevent the interruption of “life as we know it,” letting us make the most of our time today and every day.If you or a loved one may be having hearing issues, make an appointment for a hearing test today and find out what hearing aids can do to help you live life to the fullest!
About 48 million Americans are living with some form of hearing loss, in one or both ears. Hearing loss can range from mild to profound, and should be treated regardless of the severity. Sometimes hearing loss can be cured by removing blockages from the ear canals, repairing perforated eardrums, or other surgical means. But most hearing loss is “sensorineural,” meaning it is caused by problems in the inner ear or auditory nerves. Sensorineural hearing loss is the larger umbrella category under which we find both age-related hearing loss and noise-induced hearing loss. While these types of hearing loss are not curable, there is still treatment available.
Resistance to Hearing Aids?
Hearing aids are by far the most common and most effective means of treating sensorineural hearing loss. Still, some people are reluctant to start wearing them. We understand: It can be frightening, daunting, or just seem downright unpleasant to start wearing these devices throughout your day.
Some people feel their hearing loss “isn’t that bad,” or that they’re “getting by just fine” without the use of hearing aids. While hearing loss is certainly not a life-or-death matter, at least at the outset, it is best to start treating hearing loss with hearing aids as soon as the results of a hearing evaluation indicate that they would be helpful.
Ears vs Eyes
Our hearing doesn’t work the same as our eyesight. If you are near- or far-sighted, you’ll notice that things in the world are very blurry. If you have cataracts, you’ll know that your vision is being obstructed. When you have hearing loss, you simply don’t hear certain things. You might think people are mumbling. You can probably hear the television just fine, as long as the volume is set so high that people with normal hearing find it unbearably loud!
In fact, it’s normal for another person to notice that we have hearing loss before we know it ourselves. If someone else is trying to point out a sound that we can’t hear, but they can hear it clearly, that’s a good sign that we may have hearing loss.
Regular Hearing Tests
The best way to be sure about whether we have hearing loss is not to try to judge for ourselves, but to schedule a hearing test and receive an objective measure of just where our hearing ability lies. The Better Hearing Institute, a non-profit organization, recommends getting a hearing test once every decade until age 50, and once every three years after that. Those in higher-risk professions, or with a medical history indicating a higher risk for hearing loss, should be tested even more frequently.
Hearing Aids Can Help!
Think about the last time you attended a social function. With background noise, hearing loss becomes that much more of a problem. Did you become tired earlier than usual? Many people with age-related hearing loss mistake the fatigue that comes with hearing loss for a separate age-related condition. In fact, by treating hearing loss you can feel more energized for longer, just like you used to!
People who get hearing aids report satisfaction with them at a rate of over 90%, when asked after one year. Those with hearing aids tend to be both physically and socially more active than those with untreated hearing loss. They self-report feeling more confident, capable, independent, and even more optimistic than those who don’t wear hearing aids. If you’re putting off getting hearing aids because you don’t want to feel “old,” you may just find that hearing aids will make you feel much younger than you do when you can’t hear what’s going on!
Hearing aids today are better than ever before. They can distinguish between background noise and speech, and raise the level of speech while suppressing background sound. Some hearing aids can even process speech and background sound separately, so both can sound amazing and you can adjust the level of each independently.
Hearing aids today connect wirelessly to smartphones and other devices via Bluetooth, making them integrate much more seamlessly into your daily routines. You can stream phone calls, listen to music, and even hear the sound from your television right through your hearing aids, like using a set of wireless earbuds.
If you or a loved one may have a hearing issue, make an appointment for a hearing test today and find out what hearing aids can do to get your hearing health back on track!
If you have even mild hearing loss, the following scenario will likely be familiar to you:
You go out to a restaurant/bar to meet some friends or family. There’s some music playing in the background and there are eight or ten of you around a table. You’re having a hard time picking up what is being said. Even the people who are seated closest to you seem like they’re mumbling through the din of the background noise.
You try to keep up, but everyone is talking much faster than you’re able to put together what they’re saying. You think to yourself, “Did she just say ‘peach’ or ‘beach?’ She’s talking about swimming, so probably ‘beach.’” While you went through that logic exercise, two more sentences have been spoken and you got none of them. Pretty soon you give up, maybe you just smile and nod while the conversation swirls around you.
You feel exhausted while everyone else is in good spirits and seems to have more energy than ever. After a little while, you excuse yourself and go home, worn out, frustrated, and feeling lonely even though you just passed a couple of hours with some of the people who are closest to you.
The next time you have the opportunity to go out, the same thing happens. The time after that, you make up an excuse not to go. You find yourself spending more and more time at home.
Does this sound like you?
Hearing Loss & Your Overall Health
Hearing loss is one of the trickiest problems we face as we get older, and it can sometimes be hard to determine what are the effects of hearing loss and what are separate age-related conditions.
Studies in recent decades have found that hearing loss tends to promote a lot of other problems, if it is left untreated. As we naturally find social timeless enjoyable, we tend to shy away from it more and more often, as in the scenario above. Over time, the lack of social experiences can result in loneliness, depression, and social isolation.
While it isn’t clear exactly why yet, another consequence of untreated hearing loss is a higher risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Intuitively, it makes sense. We use our brains to navigate social situations and take in lots of information from the world. When our ears are no longer providing enough information to our brains, over time, cognitive decline can set in. It really seems true that we must “use it or lose it.”
Higher Rates of Cognitive Decline and Dementia
Even though we’re not entirely sure why this happens, the statistics are clear. Hearing loss is the biggest modifiable risk factor, out of twelve, for eventually developing Alzheimer’s or dementia. Mild hearing loss makes a person twice as likely as a normal-hearing person to experience cognitive decline. Moderate hearing loss makes one three times as likely, and severe hearing loss makes one five times as likely to experience cognitive decline and dementia.
Researchers are quick to note that hearing loss is not a guarantee of cognitive decline. If your risk for dementia is low, even five times that low risk will still be very low risk. But, nonetheless, the risk is there.
Hearing Aids Can Help
Evidence is mounting that treating hearing loss with hearing aids all but eliminates the increased risk of dementia that hearing loss brings with it. This is because hearing aids do exactly what is required: deliver more information to the brain. They keep us using our brains!
The hearing aids of today are much more sophisticated, powerful, and enjoyable to wear than the hearing aids of the past. They can separate background noise from speech, connect wirelessly to smartphones and other devices, and even allow you to take a hearing test right through a smartphone app. It’s never been easier or more rewarding to use hearing aids!
When asked after one year, over 90% of those who wear hearing aids say they are glad they got them. Hearing aid wearers tend to report more self-confidence, more independence, and a greater sense of optimism about their own futures… as well as the future of the world in general! They tend to spend more time outside the house, have more rewarding social relationships, and be in better physical health than those with untreated hearing loss.
Wearing hearing aids is not just about trying to prevent the cascade of negative health outcomes that comes along with untreated hearing loss. It’s about actively improving your life, and making sure you get the most out of every day. If you or a loved one is dealing with untreated hearing loss, make an appointment for a hearing test today and find out what hearing aids can do to improve your life!
It is a well-studied phenomenon that hearing loss interferes in personal relationships. As communication becomes more difficult, friends, partners and loved ones can experience frustration just as much as the person who has hearing loss. For communication to be effective, all parties must participate in facilitating better communication styles. It’s not simply enough for the person with hearing loss to get hearing aids, or the people with normal hearing to “stop mumbling.”
By keeping some things in mind, everyone can be understood, allowing our relationships to deepen and communication to flow freely, even while hearing loss is at play. If you have a partner, friend, loved one or co-worker with hearing loss, keep these tips in mind and you’ll be sure to have more successful communication going forward. In addition, be sure to ask the hearing-impaired person if there’s anything you can do that they have found to be especially helpful in conversation.
Visual communication is extra important for those with hearing loss. We usually rely somewhat on body language and facial cues in the course of a conversation, but these become even more important when hearing loss is an issue. People with hearing loss also tend to start reading lips. Make sure to face the person with hearing loss directly, rather than trying to speak into their ears. It’s more important that they see your face than that they hear your voice a little bit louder, which might only make their hearing aid distort.
Make sure there’s plenty of light, and if it is directional, make sure it is shining on your face, not the hearing-impaired person’s face.
Keep your hands from blocking your face. Eating, chewing gum, smoking, or otherwise occupying or covering your mouth while you talk is going to make it more difficult for the hearing-impaired person to understand you. Keep in mind that beards and mustaches may also reduce a hearing-impaired person’s ability to understand you.
Facemasks make communicating with the hearing impaired much more difficult. While it is important to use facemasks in order to prevent the spread of disease, it may be more helpful to back up a few feet in order to achieve social distance, rather than to sit closer while wearing a mask. Ask the hearing-impaired person their preference on this issue.
Don’t try to speak from another room. Always make sure you have the hearing-impaired person’s attention before you begin communicating. Say their name and wait for a response, or gently tap them on the shoulder. Don’t start speaking until you’re facing one another.
Enunciate, but do not break into a shout. You can speak louder than normal, but use a speaking voice. Shouting can distort hearing aids and make your words more difficult to understand. Shouting also makes your mouth look different, which will make it harder to read your lips.
Speak slowly, but do not draw out your words. Just add a little extra space between them.
If you’re communicating a lot of information, add small breaks between sentences. Periodically, ask the hearing-impaired person if they’re following what you’re saying. They may need you to say something again, so give them space to ask for that.
If the hearing-impaired person has asked you to repeat something you’ve said, try saying it in a different way rather than simply repeating the same word or phrase more loudly. By changing up your phrasing, you’re giving the person with hearing loss more “raw material” to use to put together the context clues and understand what you’re getting at.
Hearing loss makes it much more difficult to understand speech when there is background noise. Even a small amount of hearing loss will be much more difficult for a person when there is noise. Try to have important or longer conversations in a quiet, well-lit area. If you’re in a loud group setting and need to communicate something important, ask the hearing-impaired person to move to a quieter space with you.
Hearing loss can paradoxically make people more sensitive to loud sounds. This happens because of a phenomenon called “recruitment” that happens in the inner ear. Be aware that especially loud sounds may be really uncomfortable for a hearing-impaired person.
If you’re providing specific information—such as an address, telephone number, date, etc.—write it down whenever possible. If you can’t provide a hard copy of the information, ask the hearing-impaired person to repeat it back to you so you can make sure they’ve understood correctly. Many numbers, such as “fifteen” and “fifty,” sound very similar and are easily confused.
Hearing loss is exhausting. Understand that a person with hearing loss is working much harder than a normal-hearing person to keep up a conversation. They will likely become tired sooner.
If you or a loved one is dealing with hearing loss and has not had a hearing test or evaluation to determine if hearing aids would be recommended, make an appointment today. Hearing aids are an excellent way to make communication much, much easier when hearing loss is an issue. Find out what they can do to improve your communication, relationships, and life today!
One of the biggest problems we face when hearing loss becomes an issue is the difficulty we have in our relationships with those closest to us. Partners, friends and co-workers may experience frustration just as much as we do as a result of our hearing loss.
While they will likely need to adopt some new methods of communication in order to facilitate conversation with us, there are also some things that we, as the hearing-impaired parties, can do to make communication go more smoothly.
It may start to happen naturally, but a bit of lip reading can go a long way. We always rely on body language and facial cues to help us understand one another, even when both parties have normal hearing, but it becomes especially important when we have hearing loss to get that extra information from a person’s face. If someone isn’t facing you while they speak, let them know you are hard of hearing and ask them to make sure that you can see their face while they talk.
Background noise makes understanding speech that much harder. Try to remove distracting noises from your home environment when you have company. If you’re meeting in public, ask to meet at a place that doesn’t play loud music, or at a time when it won’t be at its busiest. If you’re in a group conversation and someone begins to say something especially important, ask to move to a quieter space to have the conversation.
Whenever there’s a short break in the conversation, paraphrase what has been said and repeat information back to the other party to ensure that you’ve heard them correctly.
Don’t pretend to hear when you can’t! While it may be tempting to simply pretend that you’re hearing in order to let the conversation move forward, it’s pointless and can result in embarrassing or even devastating miscommunications. If you can’t hear a person well enough, change the situation so that you can understand them, or ask them to write down what they’re saying.
Be patient. Frustration is normal when communication is difficult, but if you can find a way to make communication possible, your social life doesn’t have to end just because you can’t hear as well as you used to.
Hearing Aids Can Help
Hearing aids are by far the best and most common treatment for hearing loss. The goal with hearing aids is to deliver more information to the brain, and that will not only make your communication easier with others, but keep your brain health in good shape going forward.
As we go through life leaving our hearing loss untreated, changes start to happen in the brain. Over time, the auditory cortex will actually atrophy, and when you do get hearing aids, you’ll still need some time to build it back up before you can understand speech. By getting hearing aids as soon as they’re recommended by an audiologist, you’ll be able to live your life uninterrupted by hearing loss.
The hearing aids of today are better than ever. They’re sleeker, smaller, and much more powerful than the hearing aids our parents wore. They can separate speech from background sound, allowing you to follow a conversation much more easily. They can employ directional microphones to make the sound in front of us much louder than ambient sound. They can even connect wirelessly to smartphones and other devices to stream phone calls and other media content, and even control programs and volume from an app. Some models even allow you to take a hearing test and have your fitment adjusted remotely, right through the app.
The toll that hearing loss takes on our relationships is well-documented. Study after study confirms that hearing loss becomes a frustrating stressor in partnerships, marriages, friendships and workplaces. We all need to do our part to make sure that we can overcome hearing loss to maintain healthy social relationships, which are a major part of living a long, healthy life. While it’s important for the people in your life to do their part to facilitate communication, getting a good set of hearing aids is the best way to make the whole project much, much easier!
If you or a loved one is dealing with untreated hearing loss, make an appointment for a hearing test today and find out what hearing aids can do to improve your communication, your relationship, and your life!
According to the AARP, 17% of people aged 65 and older are socially isolated. 46% of women over 75 live alone. Recent research has found that feeling lonely puts us at a 26% increased risk of early death. Another study showed that feeling lonely (even if you see people regularly, but feel that they don’t understand you) is as physically harmful as smoking 15 cigarettes per day.
Untreated hearing loss is strongly correlated with loneliness and social isolation. It makes sense, doesn’t it? When we can’t hear people, it’s very difficult to feel connected to them. Conversations move slower, people need to speak differently to try to accommodate our hearing loss, and we simply can’t keep up.
In the early stages of hearing loss, we usually experience social fatigue after a much shorter time than usual. Some people mistake this fatigue for a separate age-related condition—”I can’t stay out as long as I used to.” In fact, the extra mental effort it takes to strain to hear, especially in a busy environment, makes us mentally exhausted much sooner than we’re accustomed to.
From this point, many people recognize that they have a hearing issue. They make an appointment for a hearing test, and may be advised to get a set of hearing aids. This is the right thing to do! Hearing aids keep us in the conversation, help keep our brains sharp, and help us stay connected to those we care about.
Unfortunately, this is not the norm. On average, people tend to wait seven years from the time they notice hearing loss to the time they do something about it. This is likely because they don’t understand the risks of leaving their hearing loss untreated, or don’t understand what is to be gained from a good set of hearing aids.
Being Around People Doesn’t Mean We’re Not Lonely
In order to feel connected, we need to be part of the conversation, not just in the same room. If we have hearing loss, we can be surrounded by family and friends, but still feel left out. Others chat away while we can only hear when someone speaks directly into our ear. With a set of hearing aids, we can be more present with everyone in the room, and be more aware of what’s happening.
Hearing aids have been shown to increase feelings of social connection, as well as confidence and independence. Feeling connected and not being lonely doesn’t necessarily mean we always need to be around people, and hearing aids help give us the independence to choose when we want to see others and when we need some alone time.
It’s Not Enough to Hear “Some of the Time”
While most people consider their hearing very important to them, the rate of hearing aid adoption does not seem to reflect that. This is partly because many people believe that it’s enough to be able to hear when “necessary.” For example, if your partner says loudly in your ear, “It’s time to go!”
It’s easy for us to think that being able to hear the important things means that we don’t need hearing aids. Unfortunately, the science does not back this up.
Even if we were able to hear everything that was said to us, but we couldn’t hear anything else, we would be in trouble. Our brains take in all kinds of information from the environment through our ears: birds chirping, fridges buzzing, feet shuffling, distant sounds and close sounds of all volume levels. These sounds feed our brains information that keeps our cognitive abilities in good order. When it comes to our brains, it really is true that we have to “use it or lose it.”
Hearing Aids Are Better Than Ever
Hearing aids today are technological marvels, housing tiny computers that are powerful enough to distinguish between speech and background sound, reduce reverberation from speech, connect via Bluetooth to smartphones and other devices, and even automatically recognize the characteristics of different environments and switch to the appropriate program. Some hearing aids can even use GPS to automatically return to a program that previously worked in a given space. While hearing aids are more powerful than ever, they also take less effort to use than ever!
If you or a loved one is having hearing issues, don’t hesitate to make an appointment for a hearing test today. Find out what’s going on with your hearing ability and take the right steps to keep yourself in the conversation and stay connected!
Today in America, there are about 48 million people dealing with some type of hearing loss. For those in the workforce, hearing loss can create communication issues that can slow down productivity, affect the path of their careers, and even cause mental health problems. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be that way! By keeping a few things in mind, you can reduce the stress of trying to do your job while negotiating with hearing loss.
Ask for Reasonable Accommodations
The Americans with Disabilities Act ensures that employers must make reasonable accommodations for employees with all kinds of disabilities, including hearing loss. Talk to your employer about what you need to do your job most effectively. It could be as simple as having a microphone at the table during meetings, sitting closer to a visiting speaker, or moving your desk away from noisy workplace appliances.It can be crucial to make sure that people talk in turns, and a meeting moderator who knows that you have hearing loss will be able to remind everyone to do that. You might also ask that meetings take place at a round table, or another situation that allows you to see everyone’s face when they speak. If one conference room tends to be noisier than another (for example, if it’s closer to the kitchen), you can ask to hold meetings in a quieter space. Whatever you can think of to ease communication between you and your coworkers is worth trying out!
Disclose Your Hearing Loss
In order to take advantage of the protections offered by the ADA, your employer needs to know that you have hearing loss. Your coworkers can also participate in facilitating your work as long as they, too, know about your hearing loss. Positive, forthright, polite disclosure helps everybody to understand the little steps they can take to make sure you’re included in the conversation. If you’re having trouble hearing someone, you can say, “I’m having trouble hearing you with my hearing loss. Can you please face me when you speak and talk a bit more slowly?” Once your workmates understand what they can do to help, most of them will start doing it automatically whenever you speak with them.
Prepare in Advance
While everyone benefits from advance preparation, it can be especially helpful for those of us with hearing loss. You’ll be able to follow along much better in meetings if you know the agenda in advance, so ask to have it emailed to you prior to the event. It may also be helpful to have a notetaker present, who can provide you with the minutes afterward in case you need to revisit something.
Use Assistive Technology
If you meet in larger groups, it can be a lot harder to hear than in smaller discussions where everyone can be physically nearer to each other. In larger conference rooms, a loop system can be helpful. Members of the group each have a microphone, which is sent to an amplifier that feeds a loop of wire that surrounds the room. The audio signal can then be picked up by a receiver, or a set of hearing aids with T-coil capability. A similar but more transportable option could be an FM system. Talk to your employer about obtaining these technologies.Other technologies can translate spoken words into text, like Computer Assisted Real Time Transcription (CART). Choosing to email when possible, rather than call or stop by a coworker’s office, can also be helpful. Video calls might be more beneficial than phone calls, so you can see the other person’s face. Lean in to the technology around you!
Try Hearing Aids
Even if you’ve tried them before and didn’t find them useful, you’d be surprised how much the technology has advanced in the last few years. Most hearing aid manufacturers offer a trial period, so don’t be afraid to give them another shot! Current models of hearing aids can do a very good job of distinguishing between speech and background noise, and even altering their program automatically as you move through different environments. If discretion is a concern for you, hearing aids are available that are invisible or nearly invisible. Don’t let hearing loss affect your performance at work. Try out a set of hearing aids today and see just how great life can sound!