Living with hearing loss
Hopefully, this column will be helpful enough that some readers will post it on their refrigerator door.
As we age, most people begin to experience hearing loss, ranging from partial to total. Fortunately, hearing aids can be used to restore either some or all of one’s hearing. But some adjustments are necessary both on the part of the person wearing hearing aids and on the part of loved ones whose hearing isn’t impaired. Here are some suggestions on how both the impairing impaired and those with normal hearing can make life easier for each other:
Even though hearing aids can be uncomfortable and even painfully noisy at times, the hearing-impaired should wear their hearing aids whenever there is the likelihood of social interaction with loved ones and others. That is only fair to friends and loved ones and makes communication so much easier. While hearing aids need not be worn around the clock, they do no good sitting into their carrying case. So, for no other reason than consideration of others, they should be worn as much as possible.
On the other hand, those with normal hearing can be of enormous help and comfort to the hearing impaired by following some simple procedures, many of which apply whether the hearing impaired are wearing their hearing aids or not:
Do not try to communicate if you are in another room or on another floor of your home or office. Believe it or not, both the hearing-impaired and those with normal hearing have learned over the years to read lips to some degree. This lip-reading ability improves has hearing ability lessens. The kindest thing all of us can do to improve communications is to hold our conversations in the same room and face each other when we speak. This also avoids the discourteous and uncivil “fish-monger” effect of calling from room-to-room or floor-to-floor.
The hearing impaired should extend the same courtesy of not calling from room-to-room or from floor-to-floor. After all, the likelihood of hearing and understanding a reply shouted back from another room or from another floor is somewhere between slim and none.
A voice that is raised too high is both painful and irritating to the hearing impaired. If the hearing aids are properly fitted and working, a normal volume and tone of voice will do. After all, that was the purpose of the investment in hearing aids in the first place.
Those who have never worn hearing aids have little idea of what the experience is like. Apparently, it is impossible for a hearing aid, no matter the cost, to be able to receive and modulate sounds in the same manner as a perfectly functioning human ear. As a result, some sounds come through quite normally while others seem to get a very uncomfortable boost.
People with normal hearing probably don’t even notice the sound made when one turns on a water faucet. But a hearing aid can make an ordinary faucet sound like Niagara Falls. A noisy sports bar or a disco is not the place to be wearing hearing aids unless, of course, the wearer is a masochist.
Hearing aid wearers tend toward public places where heavy drapes, thick carpets, quiet conversation and soft elevator music are in vogue. But beware. In that environment, a good set of hearing aids can act like those listening devices used by some big game hunters and by our special operations troops. Your private conversation with a loved one may be picked up from across a restaurant dining room by someone with a good set of hearing aids. An old counter-eavesdropping technique used by savvy intelligence agents was to “accidentally” drop something metal on a hard surface and look around quickly to see if anyone clapped their hands over their ears.
Hearing loss is part of life and for both the hearing impaired and those who are not, getting used to it just takes some patience and understanding.
William Hamilton, a nationally syndicated columnist and featured commentator for USA Today, is the co-author of The Grand Conspiracy by William Penn – a novel about terrorism striking in Colorado’s high country.