Hearing is a vital part of overall health. Untreated hearing loss is linked to cognitive declines, increased rates of depression and interferes with medical treatment by limiting someone's ability to engage with medical professionals.
Hearing loss affects all ages. The Center provides hearing aids, assistive listening devices and counseling on effective communication strategies for clients regardless of ability to pay.
Less than 20 percent of people who would benefit from hearing aids have them and those who do wait an average of 10 years before getting them.
CAUSES OF HEARING LOSS
SIGNS & SYMPTOMS
OF HEARING LOSS
Needing to turn up the volume of the television or radio
Withdrawaling from conversations
Frequently asking others to speak more slowly, clearly and loudly
Avoiding some social settings
Muffling of speech and other sounds
Difficulty understanding words, especially against background noise or in a crowd of people
For people with hearing loss and their loved ones.
These are based on strategies outlined by
The Better Hearing Institute, a helpful resource for hearing loss.
DON'T TRY TO HIDE YOUR HEARING LOSS
FOR THOSE WITH HEARING LOSS
Acknowledge your hearing loss so that people will be more likely to look directly at you when talking and speak clearly when addressing you.
If your conversation partner knows that you have hearing difficulties, there may be fewer misunderstandings if you do not respond appropriately or if it appears that you are ignoring the talker.
If you own hearing aids, wear them.
If you don't, schedule an evaluation and get your hearing tested.
Pay extra attention to the talker and try to hone your listening skills.
Watch the talker's mouth instead of looking down. Try to concentrate on the topic of conversation, even if you are missing a few words or phrases.
Anticipate difficult listening situations and plan ahead.
If you're dining out with friends, for example, suggest going at a time that is not likely to be busy, recommend a restaurant that you know is relatively quiet, and familiarize yourself with the restaurant's menu, which can often be found online.
Be as prepared as you can to minimize listening difficulties.
Avoid saying "Huh?" or "What did you say?" when you have heard at least part of what the speaker was saying.
Instead, try saying something like "I know you said you are talking about the new house you are building, but I didn't catch where you said the house is located." This way, the talker does not have to repeat everything that was said.
Think about why you are having difficulties with a particular talker, then make specific requests, politely of course.
Does she have a soft voice? Rather than saying, "Say again?" try asking her to "speak a little bit louder please." Does he speak too fast? Ask him to "please slow down a bit so my ears can keep up with what you are saying!"
If you have the slightest doubt that you understood a message correctly, confirm the details with the speaker.
It could save you some embarrassment or complications later.
Use positive words when you need help from your communication partner.
Try "Could you please speak a bit louder?" instead of "You're going to have speak louder if you want me to understand you."
Politely let your communication partner know what you need to make the conversation flow more easily.
At a group meeting, for example, if everyone is talking at once, suggest that only one person speaks at a time.
Watch the speaker's face. Although less than 50 percent of the English language is visible on the lips, you can still get a great deal of help by picking up visual cues on the speaker's face.
The speaker's facial expressions may also help you understand what is being said.
Depending on the situation, it's OK to get around normal social rules. It may be necessary to interrupt someone or bypass a line if you need to get important time-sensitive information.
Be patient with yourself, family and friends as well as with people you encounter throughout the day. Don't blame yourself or others for your difficulties.
Just keep trying to use the tips provided here and stay positive, even when the going gets tough.
FOR THEIR CONVERSATION PARTNER
If someone you are conversing with wears hearing aids or tells you that she or he has a hearing loss, do not shout or exaggerate your mouth movements.
Speak clearly, a little bit slower and a little bit louder. Pausing between phrases will help the listener have time to process what you are saying.
If someone close to you is having difficulty communicating and they do not use hearing aids encourage them to get tested for hearing loss.
Realize that it can be a strain for people with hearing difficulties to listen for long periods of time.
Try to appreciate that folks who have to pay extra attention during conversations will often tire more easily than other listeners. They may want to go home earlier from parties, family dinners and other group events.
When accompanying a friend or family member to an event that is likely to be a difficult listening situation, think of ways ahead of time to minimize communication problems.
If you are hosting a social event and know that someone who is attending has a hearing loss, strategize as to how you might reduce problem situations.
The efforts you take to plan for a "noise-free" event will probably actually benefit all of your guests.
When the listener has missed something you said, try repeating what you said one time, using clear (but not exaggerated) speech. If the person still does not understand, try rewording.
For example, if the person did not understand you when you said, "It's not polite to boast", repeat it once, then reword your sentence to "It's not nice to brag."
The best way to speak clearly for people with hearing loss is to face them, speak a little bit more slowly, a little bit more loudly and with natural voice intonation, not a monotone.
Try not to cover your mouth when you are talking, because that prevents your partner from taking advantage of lip cues.
When giving directions, such as where and when to meet for a meeting, ask your partner who has a hearing loss if he or she is clear on the directions by saying something like, "Did that make sense?"
When the listener with a hearing loss asks you to say something a little bit louder, take it as a compliment! It means he or she really wants to understand what you are talking about.
If the person you are talking with indicates that they have a hearing loss and need you to speak a bit louder or a bit slower, accommodate their needs.
The listener may benefit tremendously by being able to watch your lips as you speak.
Be sure to not cover your mouth with your hands, a restaurant menu, etc., so that the visible features of speech are available.
It's important to understand that what may seem like rudeness on the part of your friend or family member is simply an effort to let you know that he or she is having communicating difficulty as soon as possible.
Keep reminding yourself that although it may be difficult for you to converse with someone who has hearing loss, it is an even greater challenge for that person, given the many difficulties encountered during a typical conversation.
Be patient, use the communication strategies outlined here and appreciate your own good hearing abilities.