Have you noticed that people are not talking clearly or loud enough? Do you need to have the tv or radio turned up louder? Do you have difficulty hearing on the phone? If you think you might have some hearing loss, you are not alone. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders claims that 15% of American adults report some hearing loss and that number is growing. More people than ever are having to learn how to adjust to hearing loss.
Find Your Starting Point
No two hearing loss journeys are the same. They vary in type of hearing loss, what causes it, where on the spectrum of sound the loss occurs, how severe it is, and how a person responds to the loss. The best place to begin learning to adjust to hearing loss and feel like you are taking your life back is by seeing an audiologist or an ear, nose, and throat specialist to receive an official hearing test, called an audiogram. Your audiogram will help show whether you have nerve damage or conductive loss, where you have lost hearing, and how severe it is.
Modify How You Communicate
Even if your loss is conductive and you can wear a hearing aid, it is not going to amplify just the sounds you want to hear, but all sounds. You will find that hearing can still be difficult, but it can be helped by making adjustments to how you communicate with others.
• Try to avoid areas with a lot of background noise and if you can’t, sit on the edges of the room with your back to the rest of it.
• Communicate in areas which are well lit so you can see the other party’s face.
• Sometimes you might need to ask someone to speak slower and more clearly, rather than simply louder.
• Face the speaker. Remind people not to speak to you with their hand over their mouth, with their back turned, or from another room.
• Don’t feel ashamed to ask people to repeat what they’ve said. If you still are missing it, ask if they can paraphrase.
• Explain to people that you might understand more if they speak for shorter periods.
You will find that you hear better when you are well-rested and that listening, especially with background noise or for extended periods, is going to wear you out. When possible, give yourself breaks from noise or listening. Socializing in smaller groups will allow you to be closer to the speaker. Tell people you have difficulty hearing when you meet them, and remind them if they forget. Look online for groups in social media that have hearing loss. It helps to know you are not alone, even if no one’s hearing loss journey is just like yours.
Don’t withdraw and allow yourself to become isolated because of your hearing loss. Continue to be active in interacting with others and in hobbies. Consider getting involved in volunteer work. Hearing loss can open new opportunities even as it closes some. It is possible to have a full, active, happy life with less than average hearing, it just takes some practice and time to adjust.