Today in America, there are over 48 million people living with some form of hearing loss, ranging from mild to profound. While some treat their hearing loss with hearing aids, many have not taken that step, and some have hearing loss that is problematic even with hearing aids or other assistive technologies. Chances are you know someone who has hearing issues, and if you don’t it’s likely you’ll encounter someone before long who will appreciate a little accommodation to help facilitate conversation with you.
Let’s take a look at a few things that people with hearing loss wish more people understood:
Those with hearing loss have to work a little harder to comprehend speech. We wonder whether you’ve just said, “teach,” “beach,” or “reach,” and it takes brainpower to figure that out with context clues. Keep in mind that we might be doing this multiple times for every sentence that someone speaks, and you can start to see just how exhausting it is.
The parts of our brains that do this work are the same parts that are responsible for creative thinking, which means that once we’ve put together what has been said, we need to think about it and formulate a response in the same region of our brain. All the while, the conversation keeps rolling.
So please excuse those with hearing loss when we get tired faster than others in a group, or if it takes us a little longer to respond to something you say. You can help us out by speaking a little louder (but not yelling!), adding a little extra space between your words, and pausing a little longer when you’ve finished a thought. It’s also okay to ask us if there’s anything specific we’d like you to do to make conversation easier for us!
We’re Not Stupid, and We’re Not Trying to Be Rude
Miscommunications happen all the time, even between people with normal hearing. You can expect more of these when conversing with a person with hearing loss. While it might be a funny miscommunication, just accept that sometimes we’re going to get some words wrong.
Similarly, if you try to get our attention and it doesn’t work, don’t assume we’re being rude. Especially if a stranger seems to be ignoring you, try to remember they may have a hearing issue before you get angry with them!
Hearing Is Different From Eyesight
If your vision is blurry, eyeglasses can simply correct the blurriness and sharpen up your vision. Hearing loss is more analogous to having cataracts than near- or far-sightedness; some information just doesn’t come through. While mild to moderate hearing loss can usually be corrected with hearing aids to the point that hearing is restored to near-normal, more profound hearing loss benefits much less from amplification and still requires extra accommodation to facilitate communication.
While many models of hearing aids today incorporate powerful DSP (digital signal processing) that can favor speech over background noise and even assist with spatial localization, these features still depend on having some hearing ability at higher frequencies, which can be lost entirely in cases of profound hearing loss. It’s also the case that Medicare, Medicaid and most private insurers do not pay for premium hearing aid models, so some people do not have access to this technology.
Don’t Speak For Us
When in the company of those with hearing loss, some people with normal hearing can’t resist the urge to “speed things up” and answer for us when another person enters the picture. While it may take a little longer for us to speak for ourselves, it is very disempowering and even humiliating when you presume to speak for us. Let us sort out communication issues on our own terms, please!
Keep a Few Tricks in Mind
It’s not rocket science. Face us when you speak and make sure we can see your lips moving. Don’t try to talk to us from another room, and always make sure you have our attention before you start speaking. Ask us what you can do to make communication easier!
Hearing Aids Can Help
If you or someone you know is having hearing issues and is not currently wearing hearing aids, make an appointment for a hearing test today and find out what hearing aids can do to help you hear and communicate better. People who get hearing aids overwhelmingly report being satisfied with them, so don’t hesitate to improve your life with a set of hearing aids today!