How to cope when living with a hearing loss

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At some point in your life, you may be faced with the reality of being diagnosed with a hearing loss. Whether the hearing loss affects both ears or just one, whether it is mild or severe, everyone faces the same challenges when it comes to their compromised ability to hear.

Ironically, the person living with a hearing loss may be the last person to realise that they have a problem. Hearing loss usually occurs gradually over many years and people adjust to it without realising their hearing has worsened, although family members and co-workers certainly know about it.

Obtaining an appropriate, well fitted hearing aid through a certified hearing professional is often the most effective therapeutic measure for the treatment of hearing loss. However, because hearing aids have their limitations and do not restore hearing back to normal, there are other ways in which we can learn to cope when living with hearing loss.

The first step to coping with a hearing loss is to simply acknowledge it is a reality. This of course may not be easy to do, but you cannot take effective measures to minimise the impact of your hearing loss if you deny it.

It is also important to get support from other people that you know and trust around you. Have a conversation with them about what is happening to your hearing and how it might affect you and them too. They can potentially share their experiences if they are going through a similar experience or otherwise help determine what your current needs are, given that conversation will be compromised.

It is important to become an assertive listener and acknowledge that you have a valuable contribution to make towards the conversations that happen in your everyday life. In order to be an assertive listener, tell your communication partner that you may need help during your conversation with them. A lot of the time, communication breakdown occurs because people are unaware of your hearing loss or need for help, and they do not make the necessary communicative adjustments accordingly.

Here are some repair strategies that are good to learn so that if communication breakdown does occur, you know how to make listening and understanding better for you:

  • Change environments – the biggest enemy for people living with hearing loss is poor lighting, background noise and poor acoustics. If these are evident, move to an area that allows for better lighting, less noise and is acoustically pleasing.
  • Ask the speaker to get your attention first and to also face you – if the speaker calls out your name before speaking to you, their voice is directed towards you and it can give you the opportunity to lip read if necessary.
  • Check/confirm what you have heard – by saying “did you say…?” it shows the speaker that you are really trying to understand them and they will be more than likely to continue the conversation.
  • Asking the speaker to repeat – when people are specific about how they want something to be repeated, it is a lot more effective than just asking for repetition as the speaker will just say it over again. However, if you ask them to repeat it more slowly, they will change the way in which they are speaking for you to better understand.

No one said coping with a hearing loss would be easy, but you will be surprised to know how many people around you share the same challenges. The more educated you are about hearing loss and ways in which you can improve your communicative interactions with others, the better you will cope with it.

Visit an audiologist today to find the best solution for you. If you are not sure how this applies to you or your family, or if you have general questions, please send us an email or give us a call. We will gladly offer you additional advice.

Article written by Kimberlee Underwoord, audiologist at Kind 2 Hearing.