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Lifestyle: Don’t fake it!

07 Mar 2019

I spoke to a Rotary group last week and out of 15 or so people in the audience, only two had hearing aids.  Given the age of the audience, and the guilty looks when I mentioned untreated hearing loss being a significant problem, there were several in the group who should have been getting some help.

Hopefully, after my talk, some them will visit an audiologist.

After much begging, my wife Amanda went off to our new, independent audiologist to have her hearing aids assessed.  She had cobbled two unrelated hearing aids together with a combined age of about 15 years so we both knew she needed to be upgraded.

Her new hearing aids come with Bluetooth connectivity to her iPhone.  All Apple iPhones come loaded with hearing aid connectivity (for other smartphones you may need a little device called a streamer that will connect your phone and hearing aids, though Google are currently working on hearing aid connectivity for Android phones). I certainly love my hearing aid to phone connection.  With it I don’t have to have the phone by my ear.  The callers voice goes straight to my hearing aids and the clarity is much improved.  I also don’t have a hot phone against my head for long periods.

deaf

With Amanda’s new hearing aids came some tips for the hearing impaired, as well as tips for the speaker.  With thanks to Audiology South of Dunedin I have reproduced, and abridged from my own experience, some of these tips here:

Tips for the speaker

  1. Face your listener when talking and don’t block your mouth with your hands as your listener will be lip-reading.  Lip-reading is an essential tool for the hearing-impaired listener.
  2. Reduce background noise such as a TV or radio.  Ask for a quiet table in a café or restaurant, perhaps in a corner.
  3. Confirm details by asking listeners to repeat what they have heard and don’t laugh too much if they got completely the wrong end of the stick!
  4. Speak clearly but naturally with pauses for the listener to process what they’ve heard.  Their brain will be trying to fill in the gaps and be searching for context and this takes time.  Give them time. (Please note this does not mean speaking very, very slowly unless you are a particularly fast talker. This has always been a pet peeve of my colleague, Anna, when people start talking slowly and exaggerating the enunciation when they find out that she is deaf!  Apart from the annoyance, this can make it harder to lip read.)
  5. Realise that hearing loss can be very isolating.  If you are with a group, and your friend with a hearing loss hasn’t participated in the conversation for a while, check in with them.  Catch them up with what’s been said and make sure they feel included.

I was recently at a quiz night with our firm and lawyers Gallaway Cook Allan and I couldn’t hear the quiz questions.  One of the cool, young lawyers noticed this and came to sit beside me and wrote out all the questions in real time so I could contribute!  We (nearly) won!  It was a random act of kindness that made a huge difference to how I felt about the event.

Tips for the listener

  1. Reduce background noise: mute the TV.
  2. Move closer to the speaker (explain why!).
  3. Ask the speaker to face you or ask them to move their hands away from their face if you need to.  Be assertive and tell people of your hearing loss.  I sometimes wave my hearing aids at them.  Don’t try and hide your hearing loss.
  4. Arrive early at a lecture or meeting to get a seat close to the speaker.
  5. Change your batteries before an important event or outing, nothing worse than hearing the warning beep mid-show or mid-conversation.
  6. If you don’t catch some detail, don’t fake it.  Ask for clarification.  Repeat what you thought you heard.  Or say, ‘I heard you mention your new car, but I didn’t catch the make or model’.
  7. If you are struggling to enjoy watching TV with the family in the evenings or to hear your favourite radio shows, then explore some of the gadgets that are out there these days.  There are a range of things that will allow direct connection from your TV audio to your hearing aids or from a radio app on your phone to your hearing aids.  Anna loves the subtitles on Netflix for the particularly mumbly TV shows!  There are many options that can help you not feel like you are missing out.   
  8. Be patient with yourself as hearing loss can be frustrating.  Recognise that if you are tired, or sick, it will be harder.  Stay cheerful, keep up the effort and you will feel better in the morning after a good sleep.

Keep asking great questions …

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