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One of the most important things to understand about hearing loss is that it is not just a hearing issue, but also a communication issue. When we have hearing loss our relationships with our family can suffer, especially if you ignore your hearing loss. Tension can arise, as you commonly have to ask people to repeat themselves or bicker over the level of the television.
While hearing loss is usually irreversible, it can be treated, using hearing aids. Hearing aids amplify the sounds, which we struggle with, allowing us to hear more clearly. Even so, it takes time to adjust to hearing aids. Your family, friends and co-workers can help you follow conversation and by using communication strategies to help you succeed.
Communicating with hearing aids
Hearing aids are amazing devices, amplifying the specific tones and pitches you struggle with. Even so, they will not be able to completely restore the hearing of your youth. Hearing aids take a moment to get used to. Informing people about communication strategies that work for you can help avoid miscommunication down the road. For instance loud and noisy environments will make it much more difficult for your hearing aids to help you hear.
Even with programs and settings for noisy environments noise can cause many challenges. It may be best to avoid crowds to have important or casual conversation. If possible choose a location further away from noise. If you can, have your family turn down unneeded sounds when speaking with you. Wait to run the dishwasher and lower background music, which could hinder your success in hearing.
Disclosing your hearing loss
Being open about your hearing loss allows you to ask for what you need to communicate the most clearly. Many people hold onto the stigma of hearing loss, fearing it will make them appear weak or aging. On the contrary, hearing loss affects people of all ages and being open about your hearing disability will show you have the strength to ask for and receive what you need to communicate. Just because hearing loss is an invisible disability doesn’t mean you can’t let people know you need help.
Making sure they have your attention
When you can be cued in to someone speaking before they begin you can focus in order to more effectively follow what they are saying. Many people will attempt to speak to you from another room or without making sure you are paying attention first. Listening with hearing loss requires concentration and can also be aided by visual cues. Facial expression, hand gestures, body language and even lip reading are skills that people with hearing loss develop and rely on to understand people around them. Let your family members know that it is helpful that you are at attention before they start speaking to you. It can make conversation easier for everyone.
It is common for people to use slang, shorten phrases or mumble. When people struggle with hearing these short cuts can make things extra confusing. It is common for people that do not have or understand hearing loss to want to yell to help the hearing impaired to understand. This can actually distort the sound rather than making speech more clear. Instead ask people to speak slowly and enunciate their words, maintaining eye contact at all times.
Rephrase rather than repeat
One of the most common signs of hearing loss is the need to ask people to repeat themselves. The cause of the misunderstanding may be certain tones or consonants in the word you are struggling to hear. Instead of having the people in your life repeat themselves ask them to rephrase what they are trying to convey. This may give you more information to understand the intent and may be more audible to you.
When in doubt, write it out
If you are struggling with understanding speech, it can’t hurt to have your family write out a word or phrase to help you follow. There are now apps that can transcribe speech to text in real time on your Smartphone. This can allow you to read along when you are struggling in conversation.
Being open and advocating for your needs
Don’t be afraid to educate family friends and co-workers about the best communication strategies to help you stay connected and engaged. When you are open about what you need you can stay connected to the people in your life that matter most to you.