Though hearing loss is one of the most common medical conditions that people experience today, there are several misconceptions and a general lack of knowledge about what it is like to live with impaired hearing. 1 in 5 people have some degree of hearing loss, which impacts an estimated 48 million people. You may know someone – a friend, loved one, neighbor, coworker. – that has hearing loss and are familiar with needing to adjust in specific ways to enhance communication. It is important to be aware of and practice the ways that you can create more accessible conversations so that others are able to engage with more ease. Learning about hearing loss and what people with the condition wish others knew can help you better adjust!
- Hearing takes hard work.
For people who hear without difficulty, it can be hard to realize how much work goes into hearing and processing sound. For people who experience hearing loss, the ears and brain have to work harder to process and make sense of sound. So people with hearing loss often rely on various things to navigate a conversation. In addition to the support provided by hearing aids, people may read lips to better follow a conversation, follow other nonverbal cues like facial expressions, and may ask for clarification if something was missed. This work can be tiring, leading to fatigue that may require people to take breaks or move to a quieter space.
- You are not being ignored.
People engaging with others who have hearing loss can feel like they are being ignored or not fully listened to. It may seem like the other person is spacing out, not paying attention, or is uninterested in what you are saying. But in actuality, they are working hard to hear what you are communicating which takes more work for them. If they are not responding, they could have missed what you said or could be experiencing difficulty in processing specific words or phrases. It is important to not take these experiences personally and to remember that they are doing their best. Rather than getting frustrated and assuming they are not paying attention, it can be helpful to simply ask how they are doing and if you can clarify anything.
- Speaking louder is not always better.
People often assume that you can “fix the problem” by speaking louder. But projecting your voice is not always helpful and in fact, can make it even more difficult. Speaking louder can further obscure the sound of words, making it more challenging to hear. Projection can contribute to the muffling of sound and also can be unpleasant to experience in public settings. So do not make the assumption that speaking louder does the trick, rather, ask the person what you can do to better support their hearing.
- Hearing aids requiring adjusting to.
The most common treatment for hearing loss is hearing aids. These are electronic devices that provide ample support with absorbing, amplifying, and processing sound. Unlike glasses though, where you can simply put them on and vision is significantly enhanced, hearing aids take time to adjust to. Hearing aids allow people to hear sounds they likely have not heard in quite some time. It takes time for the brain to refamiliarize itself with these sounds. Additionally, the ears and brain have to retrain itself to process sound in this new way.
- Be patient.
It is incredibly important to remain patient and not give up on conversations. You will likely experience frustration that conversations can just be immediately easy. But rather than becoming short or stressed, ask the other person how you can better accommodate their hearing. They want to participate fully, just as much as you do, in the conversation. There are several ways you both create the conditions for easeful and effective communication.
What You Can Do
There are numerous strategies that you can practice to best support people with hearing loss. This includes the following tips:
- Reduce background noise: turning off the television, music, or household appliances that are creating noise in the background.
- Face the person: always face the person you are speaking to so that you are clearly visible and they have access to nonverbal cues that help them follow the conversation.
- Avoid noisy settings: this includes restaurants and cafes at peak hours, other loud social venues etc.
If you have experienced changes in your hearing contact us today to schedule an appointment. We are here to help you reconnect with the sounds of your life!