Hearing loss is an invisible condition and is one of the top three public health concerns in the nation. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), around 15% of adult Americans have reported issues with their hearing and close to 30 million would gain from wearing hearing aids.
Unfortunately, hearing health is not at the forefront enough when we picture our overall health and fitness. The average American is not well informed about the prevalence of hearing loss due to negative perceptions of an invisible condition, public awareness and lack of access to current research, trends, and technologies.
By 2050, the world will have an estimated 900 million people with hearing impairment.
Take note of the following so that the next time you are engaging with a person that is suffering from hearing loss you can help to sustain a mutually respectful conversation. Here are five things people with hearing loss wish you knew.
- Hearing devices
Unlike glasses, hearing aids are not known to become part of a person’s style repertoire. They are built to be inconspicuous and aid with hearing. Implements that assist hearing often amplify sound, but the wearer still bears the burden of deciphering which sounds are pertinent to their situation.
For example, in a loud restaurant, we are instinctually able to filter out background noise not relevant to our conversation. For those fitted with hearing aids, a concentrated effort is required for them to continually recognize and differentiate between the newly occurring sounds.
It is hard work for the hearing impaired to continually filter specific sounds that are relevant to the interaction between them and those around them.
People with hearing loss are constantly exerting themselves to participate in a conversation while we chat away without much care. They have to lean in, situate themselves physically for maximum hearing acquisition and focus on all physical clues to help them navigate social and or professional situations.
Sounds that we easily interpret into the flow of a conversation are not the same for those that are hearing impaired. They could be receiving distorted sounds or muffled speech and reconstructing them with great effort. It is exhausting and can be very discouraging. When you are in conversation with a person with hearing loss, take care to speak with clarity.
Make sure you keep in mind that if a person is not responding to you right away or is missing the point that you don’t rush to judge their intelligence. It is not for lack of trying but in fact an inability to process sound well or receiving distorted sound. If responses are mistimed or misinterpreted slow down your pace of speech, give the person a longer response time.
If there is a miscommunication try repetition and speaking concisely. Your patience is key. People suffering from hearing loss are not being rude or dumb, but actually pulling on all their resources and doing their best to keep up!
- Do not patronize
When you are in a conversation with someone that has a hearing loss, try to you avoid speaking for them. It might take them a while longer to respond or get caught up with the conversation but they can and will. Once again, patience is the key. If you are speaking and your point is not coming across, do not dismiss the person if they ask you to repeat yourself. It’s important to them that they understand what you are saying. Being dismissive can also be hurtful and counterproductive to people struggling to maintain communication. Keep your pity at bay. They are not looking for that either.
- Encourage and support
There are many ways to sustain a conversation with people that struggle with hearing loss. It really helps if you get their attention first before you start speaking to them. Stay in front of them so that they can read your body language and make lip reading easier much easier! Do repeat yourself when asked and if that is not effective try rephrasing what you say. “I’m going to a weight training and fitness program” can be changed to “I’m working out at the gym!”. Some words are harder to decipher than others so mix it up a bit!
It really can benefit everyone around us if we kept some of these key pieces of information in mind so that a mutually beneficial conversation and communication exchange can be enjoyed by everyone.
All Ear Doctors
Are you struggling with communication? Have you noticed a loved one is having a difficult time following conversation? It could be due to hearing loss. There’s no reason to be out of the loop with the sounds of your life. Contact us at All Ear Doctors today to schedule an appointment for a hearing test!