Hearing loss is a major public health issue. In fact, about 48 million Americans, nearly 20 percent of the population, report some level of hearing loss. From mild to profound hearing loss, coping with changes in your ability to hear is never easy. Here are some steps to help ease your anxieties about hearing loss and make interacting with the world a bit easier.
How Does Hearing Loss Occur?
Hearing loss is the third most common physical condition after arthritis and heart disease according to the Hearing Loss Association of America. Some people are born without hearing (congenital hearing loss) and some people experience gradual hearing loss over time. Hearing loss can be noise-induced, age-related, or due to genetics, injury, or exposure to other risk factors at birth, during childhood, or as an adult.
In older adults, it is often associated with (or mistaken for) other conditions, such as dementia. The confusion that a person may experience as a result of hearing loss can lead to agitation, anxiety, and feelings of loneliness and isolation. To curb negative side effects of , it’s important to address your symptoms by consulting with a trained audiologist (such as Dr. Stella Fulman or Dr. Zhanneta Shapiro at Audiology Island) and by adopting practical habits to help you remain connected with your community.
Practical Tips for Living with Hearing Loss
There are several things to consider when faced with hearing loss. Whether you’re living with mild or profound hearing loss, it’s important to be aware of your condition and learn ways to make the most of your abilities. Here are some practical ways to cope with disorder.
Manage the Environment
It can be supremely frustrating to interact with the hearing world when your hearing is impaired. There are ways to proactively increase your success when communicating with others. Make sure you’re in a well-lit area when conversing with others, so you have enough light to recognize facial features and visual cues. Make sure to position your body so that your back is to the light source, rather than in your eyes. The more light you have at your disposal, the better you’ll be able to recognize facial features to piece together the conversation.
Reduce background noise when attempting to hold a conversation. If you know you’ll be in a noisy area such as a restaurant, request a table that’s far away from the centers of activity, such as near the bar area or the kitchen. If you’ll be in a group setting, sit in a place where you can see the most people, such as the head of the table. If you hear better in one ear, make sure to stand or sit in such a way that the person you’re speaking with is more able to speak in your stronger ear.
Take Part in the Conversation
Family members and friends of those with hearing loss can make changes to communicate better with their loved one. Gain the person’s attention before you begin talking by saying their name, moving into their field of vision, or, if invited to, touching their hand, arm, or shoulder lightly. Maintain eye contact with the person with hearing loss – don’t eat, chew gum, or cover your face when speaking, so the person you’re speaking with is able to have an unobstructed view of your mouth.
Finally, speak naturally (there’s no need to shout) and at a normal rate. If the person you’re speaking with doesn’t understand something you’ve said, try rephrasing rather than repeating yourself. Also, don’t dismiss the conversation if the person you’re speaking with has a hard time understanding you.
Consider Assistive Devices
There are several assistive hearing devices such as amplified or hearing aid-compatible phones, listening devices for televisions, alerting devices and personal amplifiers that help aid your everyday communication. To know what systems might best meet your needs, it’s important to meet with a trained audiologist who can fully evaluate your hearing acuity and recommend devices such as hearing aids or assistive devices to make hearing and communicating easier for you. Contact Dr. Stella Fulman or Dr. Zhanneta Shapiro of Audiology Island today to address your hearing problems so you can get back to living.
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