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How to be Your Own Hearing Loss Advocate

by Debbie Clason for Healthy Hearing

May 30, 2017 - Technology takes care of so many things for us today, it’s often difficult to realize that it occasionally needs a little assistance from us to work effectively. Smartphones are only intelligent when their battery is charged. Your car’s GPS gives you great directions, as long as you enter the destination information correctly. Hearing aids can amplify sound, but they can’t teach others how to effectively communicate with you.

Talking to others about your hearing loss isn’t always fun, but advocating for yourself is essential if you want to get the most out of interactions with your loved ones and colleagues. Asserting yourself isn’t rude, it’s essential -- especially if you want to get the most out of interactions with friends and family.

Speak Up if You Can’t Hear

Just because you wear hearing aids doesn’t mean you’ll be able to hear everything someone says to you. Teenagers have a bad habit of mumbling and covering their mouth or hiding their face when they speak. Family members take short cuts by shouting questions from another room. And some people talk so fast, it’s difficult to follow what they say.

Asking for people to repeat themselves is much better than responding to what you think they said. If they don’t know you can’t hear well, they might think you weren’t listening well, even though you’re smiling and nodding in agreement.

Ask People to Get Your Attention Before They Speak

...especially if they’re speaking directly to you. If your back is turned when they begin giving instructions or making a request, you may miss important details. If you don’t respond, they may think you’re ignoring them.

Explain that you’ll hear much better if they get your attention by tapping you on the shoulder or making eye contact before they begin to speak.

Ask People to Look at You When They Speak

Depending on the severity of your hearing loss, you may still do a little lip reading during conversations. That’s okay. Even if you don’t, voices project much better when someone is facing you directly than when their head is turned -- or when they’re whizzing past you in a hurry to get somewhere else.

While we’re on the subject, you might also explain there’s no reason for them to shout. Your hearing devices make the necessary amplifications, and shouting may actually serve only to distort sound. You just need the extra visual help facial expressions, eye contact and lip reading bring to the conversation.

Tell Others What You Need

Contrary to what your internet news feed might suggest, modern science is still light years away from actually reading your mind. All kidding aside, instead of leaving things to chance, practice politely asking for accommodations which put you in the best listening environment for your hearing loss. This might include:

  • A good seat at the table, lecture or business meeting. Let the hostess or organizer know you wear hearing devices and ask to be seated in the front of the room or in a chair where you can see everyone’s faces.
  • Assistive listening devices. Ask if the meeting room, museum, theater or church sanctuary has a loop system. Learn how to sync them with your hearing devices so you can have the dialogue piped directly into your ear at a volume that’s effective for you.
  • A quiet room for the conversation. Some family gatherings can get a little noisy, what with the big game on television and the kids excitedly sharing their new toys with one another. When the conversation turns serious and you need to hear every word, ask the host or hostess if there’s a quiet room you can step into.
  • Turning down the volume on the music or television. Today’s hearing aids do a great job of amplifying speech and quieting background noise, but that doesn’t mean they can eliminate it completely.

Model Good Hearing Health

You already know how important it is to schedule regular appointments with your hearing healthcare professional. As such, sharing your personal journey as you advocate for effective communication is a perfect way to encourage loved ones to practice good hearing health care, too.

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