Coping with Hearing Loss09/22/2016

One of the most common health conditions affecting older and elderly adults is hearing loss. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), one in three people between the ages of 65 and 74 suffer from hearing loss. Not only is hearing loss problematic while trying to follow a doctor's advice and responding to warning sounds, it can also be an embarrassing and frustrating ailment that causes disruptions with conversations and relationships.

How do I know if I'm experiencing hearing loss?

If you have experienced some of the following situations below, you may be have some form of hearing loss:

  •  I often ask people to repeat what they say
  •  I have trouble hearing in groups
  • I think other people mumble
  • Having particular difficulties hearing certain sounds, like high or low voices - or even bugs and birds
  • I cannot hear someone speaking behind me
  • I often turn up the volume on the television or in the car
  • I have difficulty hearing on the phone
  • I dread going to crowded restaurants and parties because of the noise

Communication is essential to us as human beings because we are social animals. When something disrupts our communication, we may isolate ourselves in order to cope. Helen Keller, who was both blind and deaf, once said, "Blindness cuts us off from things, but deafness cuts us off from people."

Communication is a two way street, and both the listener and their communication partner need to take a more assertive role during conversations when someone has hearing loss. Below are some communication strategies to keep in mind when speaking with someone who is hard of hearing:

  • Try to determine the source of your difficulty - For example, does the speaker have a soft voice or are they speaking too fast? Ask the speaker to speak up or more slowly. Speakers as well as listeners need to cooperate to improve communications.
  • Polish your concentration skills and focus on the conversation, even if you miss a few words or phrases
  • Admit your hearing loss so people are more likely to look directly at you while speaking
  • Use your eyes to pick up visual cues on the speaker's face
  • Be clear about what you missed instead of frequently saying, "What?" This allows the speaker to know what he or she has to reiterate
  • Verify what you think you heard
  • Have your hearing tested to determine your specific problem 
  • Use hearing-assistive technology such as hearing aids, which are more effective and less visible than ever

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