Many of us have preconceived notions about the experience of hearing loss. It is not until we experience the condition ourselves that we truly understand the far-reaching effects of hearing loss. If you don’t have a hearing loss, but know someone who does – whether it’s a colleague, neighbor, friend, or family member – you have probably already made adjustments and accommodations in order to effectively communicate.
As with everything else, adjusting to life with hearing loss – whether it is your own or someone else’s – is a learning process to ensure that everybody feels heard and visible. Here, we’ve compiled a list of things people with hearing loss wish folks with normal hearing knew about the condition.
Don’t Take It Personally and Don’t Make It Personal
One of the primary challenges with hearing loss is speech recognition. It is especially difficult to recognize speech in noisy environments, and for some people, to hear speech sounds from behind. So, if you’re trying to communicate with someone who has hearing loss and you do not get a response, don’t take it personally! You are not being ignored. Chances are, the person did not hear you. Pro tip: if it’s not too invasive, gently touch the person’s shoulder to get their attention.
At the same time, keep in mind that people with hearing loss are not being rude or have any cognitive issues. If you do not get a response appropriate to what you are saying or if the person seems to have missed the point of what you’ve said, chances are the person misheard you. Though it may be frustrating, try not to get upset and simply repeat yourself.
When you do get the person’s attention, apply a few simple tricks to your method of communication to make hearing easier. Face the person when speaking to them and make sure your lips are visible. Some people rely on lip-reading in addition to listening in order to make sense of the speech sounds. If you’re having an important conversation, try to do it in a well-lit area with limited background noise.
Hearing Loss Fatigue
Because hearing loss happens in the brain, the experience of (untreated) hearing loss can be exhausting. The brain must work harder to make sense of sound signals in the auditory process. This tires out the brain and uses resources allocated for other processes. People with hearing loss may want to remove themselves briefly from loud environments to take a break in a quiet space. When interacting with someone who has a hearing loss, make sure to check in with them to see how they’re doing. They may want to take a break or may just ask you to slow down the pace of the conversation.
No Need to Speak on Their Behalf
Many people with hearing loss agree: it is demeaning when others try to speak for them. If you notice that the person with hearing loss has missed a question, rather than speaking on their behalf, simply get their attention and have the question repeated.
Adjusting to Hearing Loss and Hearing Loss Treatment Take Time
Unlike eyeglasses or contact lenses, which restore vision immediately upon wear, treating hearing loss takes more time. Hearing aids, the most common treatment for hearing loss, require patience and practice to get used to. With hearing loss, especially if it has been left untreated for a long period of time, the brain requires an adjustment period when fuller, richer sounds are re-introduced.
If you live with someone who has a hearing loss, ask how you can support them in their adjustment process. If you casually run into someone with new hearing aids, speak at your normal volume. There’s no need to raise your voice or slow down your speech – just make sure you’re speaking clearly!
Many people with hearing loss voice the same complaint: they can hear, but it is difficult to understand. Volume and speed are not necessarily the issue. Rather, it is a matter of speaking clearly, facing the person, and making sure that you have their attention. One Starkey hearing aid user sums it up well: “Wearing hearing aids is not the same as getting your normal hearing back. Get a person’s attention before you speak. And speak clearly. Don’t start talking and walk away! Understand that even with the best hearing aids, it is still hard to hear one person when multiple people are talking at the same time. Be patient!”
For all of your hearing health care needs, contact our team at Atlanta Hearing Doctor.