Coping with Hearing Loss

Even minor hearing loss can have a huge impact on normal life to the extent that many sufferers become withdrawn and isolated. A slight change in hearing levels can affect the ability to participate in conversation leaving the sufferer struggling to communicate effectively with others. Equally, being unable to hear traffic noise, reversing alarms or even pedestrian crossings could put a person in direct danger.

The level of hearing loss can be relatively mild and only restricted to the high pitched sounds but on the other end of the scale, the loss could be significant enough that understanding speech is impossible without the use of a hearing aid.

For anyone with a substantial hearing loss, their ability to communicate is directly related to their responses with amplification and their ability to lip-read effectively. Unfortunately, tolerance from others is often limited because they can’t physically see any problem.

The prime causes of hearing loss due to ageing:

  • Wear and tear to the tiny hair cells in the inner ear.
  • Previous regular exposure to loud noise
  • A history of middle ear disease
  • A family history of hearing loss.

A number of people suffer from a condition called tinnitus, which causes a persistent noise such as ringing or buzzing inside the ear. This can also be linked to hearing loss.

First steps if you are struggling to hear:

  • Don’t ignore the problem because it won’t just go away.
  • Talk to your GP about how your hearing is affecting your daily life. They can carry out basic tests which will check for easily treatable hearing problems such as infection or wax build-up.
  • If no simple cause is found, your GP can refer you for a hearing test with an audiologist or ENT (ear nose and throat specialist).  An assessment will help find the cause of your hearing loss and what treatments would work best.
  • Remember, there is no more shame in needing Hearing Aids than needing glasses to read!

Be upfront:

  • Talk to family friends and colleagues – inform them that you have hearing loss.
  • Do not try to do the coping on your own – engage your loved ones to help you in certain situations that you already know are challenging.
  • Ask people to speak a bit more slowly at the beginning of any conversation – most people are not aware that they need to do this.
  • Explain to new acquaintances that you don’t hear well because they won’t necessarily notice even when you wear hearing aids.
  • Don’t be embarrassed to ask someone to repeat the sentence if you have not understood them clearly.
  • If you have heard part of the sentence but have missed a vital detail, like the time or day of a meeting etc., ask for clarification. You could phrase this in a way which notifies the speaker of which detail you missed, for example, “Did you say 2 pm/Wednesday?” etc.
  • Don’t pretend to have understood when you haven’t. Be clear and make the speaker aware that you didn’t hear the full content.

Learn how to spot visual clues

  • Watch people’s lip movements, facial expressions and even hand movements – these visual cues will help you to gather vital information particularly in a noisy environment.
  • In noisier places aim to position yourself in the quietest part of the room and away from noise sources, like speakers, PA systems or amplifiers, etc.
  • If a room is dimly lit try to position yourself where there is some form of lighting so that you can see the people you are speaking to.

Assistive Devices

  • If your audiologist prescribes hearing aids, you need to use them. For no sensible reason, some people feel that there is some form of stigma attached to hearing loss. There shouldn’t be so refusing or resisting the use of hearing aids is simply perpetuating this belief.
  • Hearing devices are only as good as their component parts so basic maintenance is essential – check regularly that there is nothing clogging the device and make sure that the batteries are changed regularly.
  • There are other assistive devices to help with hearing around the home:
    • Infrared systems for the television.
    • Telephones with built-in frequency enhancement

If you are suffering from hearing loss, no matter what you do, there will be times that you will have problems. A natural reaction is to avoid certain activities because it involves too much effort on your part. However, isolating yourself won’t fix your hearing! Work hard to remind yourself that your hearing does not define you and that you remain a valuable person with plenty to contribute to society.

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