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How I explain my hearing loss to friends and family

Living with hearing loss is not an easy feat, but with the right support, it can be managed.

There have been a lot of questions and discussions in the hearing loss community recently, of how best to describe deafness and hearing loss to family and friends. This is how I explain my hearing loss to others.

My hearing loss is a part of me

You may or may not know, but I have a hearing loss. It’s just a part of me, it hasn’t changed who I am.

According to the World Health Organization, over 5 percent of the world’s population has a form of hearing loss. We all have various levels of deafness, different communication methods and use hearing technologies. If there’s anything you want to know about hearing loss feel free to ask!

Here are a few simple considerations to help make life easier with hearing loss:

Include me in group conversations

Communication is one of the main challenges we face, particularly in group situations. We can be quite good at hiding the fact we didn’t understand something or hear what someone said. It’s easy to get carried away in laughter or deep in discussion. If you can take a moment to repeat things, let us know the topic or repeat jokes, we will feel more included!

Read more: Never Mind: How to Handle Communication in Groups

Sometimes one on one situations are best

Hearing loss can be quite isolating. If you notice us excusing ourselves from groups, turning down social outings, please ask us if we’re ok. We do this because it’s easier to isolate ourselves than to deal with the hindrance of not understanding group chats, with loud background noises, but it can have a negative impact on our mental health.

We may prefer one on one situations. I’ll always be up for doing something fun just the two of us! There are lots of things to do, just a few small amendments like quieter venues, good lighting, off-peak times, it all helps!

Please have patience

Communication is a two-way process. If we didn’t get it the first time, we’ll get there eventually.

Please face us when talking, if we didn’t catch you, please repeat or explain things in a different way. If not, type or write it down. It’s easy to get frustrated if we don’t understand, as we feel the frustration too, so let’s work together.

We’re no different

Everyone is unique. Hearing, or deaf; we all have our own identities, traits, and differences. Just because we have a hearing loss doesn’t mean we wish to be treated differently. It’s a part of us.

Some of us have embraced it, others may yet to accept it, but we all want to feel included and loved, treated no differently.

 

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5 Myths About Hearing Loss People Age 50+ Believe

The older we get, the more set in our ways we become. For those over 50, stubbornness will often play a part in behavior and perception.

Hearing loss is no exception. The charity, Age UK, reports that over 40 percent of people living in the UK over age 50 have some form of hearing loss. This is no small demographic, and unfortunately, it’s one that tends to believe myths about hearing loss.

Over the years, inaccurate things about hearing loss are heard, overheard, read and often assumed. Left unchecked, these everyday myths about hearing loss can lead to people living their lives with an often serious hearing challenge, which can seriously impact other areas of life, including mental and emotional well being.

Here are five myths people who are 50+ believe about hearing loss:

1) Hearing loss is just a natural part of aging and something you have to live with

Yes, hearing loss can be part of the natural aging process. Even if it is, there really is no logical reason for ignoring it. Early intervention can be instrumental in getting you back into the mainstream of life, the quality of which will have already deteriorated due to the loss. In order for you to notice the hearing loss in the first place, you likely feel uncomfortable or challenged in some way. Take this as an incentive to make an appointment or take an online hearing test. Knowledge defeats ignorance every time. Hearing loss cannot be miraculously restored, but hearing aids can help compensate.

2) Hearing aids are just like prescription glasses because they fully compensate

This is a cruel myth because the truth of the matter often leads people to cancel appointments and give up using their hearing aids. Hearing aids won’t fully restore your hearing. Nothing can. What they can and will do is compensate for that loss in a different way. Wearing hearing aids allow you to experience those missing sounds in a new way. It isn’t about full hearing restoration; it is a new way to experience those sounds.

3) Wearing a hearing aid will make you look much older 

This idea is so outdated that it’s laughable. We now live in a microtechnology age, the age of miniaturization. Most modern hearing aids are so small, they go unnoticed most of the time. People rarely study other people’s ears. Faces and eyes draw more attention. People of all ages wear aids and many are now proud to do so. The shame and stigma are almost nonexistent.

Read more: NEWSFLASH: Hearing aids ARE cool!

4) It’s better to put off having your hearing checked as long as possible

Nothing could be further from the truth than this old outdated idea. When medical advice is sought as soon as possible, there is a high chance of a better outcome.Undiagnosed hearing loss has been linked to people feeling isolated and withdrawing from family, friends, and society. It has also been linked to mental disorders such as Alzheimer’s. It also takes time to get used to wearing hearing aids and the sooner you begin, the better and easier it will be for you.

Read more: Are hearing loss and dementia linked?

5) Hearing loss only affects your hearing

This can be a particularly damaging assumption. As mentioned above, the loss of hearing can and often does have an effect on other things. When you struggle to hear conversations and often miss the punch line of jokes, it can be easier not to go to social functions. It can be so easy to decide that you prefer your own company and assume that people tend to do this once they reach their fifties. Unfortunately, this kind of behavior will often lead to emotional upset and can lead to depression.

If you have some form of hearing loss — diagnosed or not — doesn’t it make sense to do something about it, especially that now you’re armed with a handful of myth-busting facts?

Read more: Why you’re never too old to try hearing aids

It might be that you have a hearing aid or two sitting snugly at the back of a drawer or you may have only recently noticed a difference in the quality of your hearing. At whatever place or stage you are right now, make your mind up to go and do something about it. That one first step could be an open door back to your old life.

 

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My journey to discovering Marvelous hearing aids

A long and often frustrating quest for the best fitting hearing aid leads to a Marvelous discovery.

Sweat trickled down from my hairline onto my brand new Alpine White Phonak Audeo Marvel hearing aids. The sound of Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough” surged through the devices, making my legs move, my arms wave, and my face to contort in a way that said: “I take my disco dancing very, very seriously.”

The music was loud and crystal clear, with no annoying squeals or feedback from the devices on my ears. My wife Kate circled around me, and I reeled her in with a “catching a fish” dance that we’ve perfected over the years. I was working very hard, and was a little worried the perspiration would damage the devices. But not tooworried. After all, the next song was “Get Down on It” by Kool and the Gang. Concerns about malfunctioning gadgetry were put aside as I proceeded to…you know…get. down. on. it.

Earlier in the day, my audiologist had fitted me with my new Marvel hearing aids. And for the first time in a long while, I felt carefree and confident when it came to my hearing. It had been a long road, with several missteps along the way, but I’d finally found the aids that worked best for me. And for that, I wanted to show them a good time.

Streaming Feature

Five months before, I had just purchased a different set of high-end digital hearing aids. The Marvels weren’t out yet, but other brands were promoting the “device to hearing aid” streaming feature that I was incredibly excited about. As an experienced hearing aid wearer (15 years and counting), the idea of streaming music, podcasts, and even making calls from my smartphone straight to my aids was like, well, music to my ears.

But these hearing aids fell short in many ways. Sure, they had all the bells and whistles with fancy names—the echo blockers, the whistle minimizers, the multi-dimensional environmental noise reducers—but what I really needed were conversation enhancers. I spent thousands of dollars on this new technology, but the sound of the hearing aids didn’t compute with my brain. The acoustics were foreign and overly mechanical. It also seemed like the devices were trying too hard to impress. Different programs turned on and off depending on the environment I was in. I gave these aids a shot, but returned them after a few weeks.

Understanding Conversations

The next set of hearing aids I tried received great reviews and had all the latest streaming technologies. But there were some fit issues with the domes, and like the others, it seemed like they were trying too hard in different environments.

At work, simple conversations were still difficult. I work in an office that’s a long, open room with no cubicles, just neatly arranged desks for about 20 people. As hearing aid wearers know, that kind of open space makes understanding conversations a huge challenge. As words and phrases from the mouths of my coworkers travel across the open room, letters drop off along the way. By the time the discourse gets to my ears, it’s like soft and indecipherable gibberish.

With these hearing aids, I’d hoped nearby banter would be improved. But I still couldn’t quite understand the conversations around me. As a result, I didn’t interact as much because I didn’t want to look like a moron when I couldn’t understand someone. I never thought of myself as anti-social, but that’s how I was coming across.

Outside of work, I tried the hearing aids at a local pub. Three of my buddies and I met up for a few beers. We sat in a small booth and traded stories, embellished our tales a little, and laughed a lot. I’d read an article about the superb speech in noise features of the aids I was wearing. But, um, no, I would have to disagree with that review. I was able to hear maybe 50 percent of what was being said, and my friends were right in front of me. The tables around us were the problem. I just couldn’t block out those other conversations. I remember at one point all of us were laughing at some joke, only I didn’t hear the joke, and was simply laughing along with them. Sure, I had fun, and was able to hear enough to get by, but I was hoping for better performance in that situation.

Last Straw

The last straw with these hearing aids was when I was walking my son to school. It was a cold Thursday in December, and the wind was howling.

“Hey Dad, did (something) to (something) when the (something, something)?” asked 8-year-old Charlie.

“What’d ya say buddy?” I said, leaning down to place my right ear directly in his face.

Just as he was repeating himself, the wind picked up and pummeled us. I had to adjust the positioning of my head to stop the barrage of wind noise in my aids. Of course, I didn’t hear what he said a second time.

“Sorry pal, what was that?” I said.

Charlie looked up at me, then looked back down.

“Nevermind, Dad,” he said. “It’s okay.”

He then sauntered ahead of me, skipping along like kids do. I remained a few steps behind, turning my head every which way to avoid the wind turbulence. I returned those hearing aids later that day.

Trying the Marvels

In late January of this year, I read about the new Phonak Audeo Marvel hearing aids. They had all the new technology I was looking for, and they were rechargeable which was cool. By the way, if I had a nickel for every stray hearing aid battery I’d found in my pocket, in the couch cushions, or in the laundry, I would’ve been able to retire early.

I was familiar with the Phonak brand since I’d worn Phonak Audeo S aids for about six years. My audiologist, Shelly Boelter at OHSU Soundsource in Portland, OR, had superhuman patience with me. When hearing aids didn’t work, she fit me with other ones. I’d like to think I’m a laid back guy, but when it comes to the gadgets on my ears, I’m as finicky as a two-year-old in front of a plate of vegetables. I don’t want to like my hearing aids, I want to love them. Shelly had a good feeling about the Marvels. So, I set up an appointment at the audiology clinic to try them out. When I put the Marvels on for the first time, I just knew my search was over.

“When I put the Marvels on for the first time, I just knew my search was over.”

The rechargeable aids were a little wider but fit snugly behind my ears. Within seconds, I recognized the wonderfully enchanting sound of the air conditioner overhead. Never has ventilation sounded so beautiful. Shelly’s voice was crystal clear. Needless to say, I was pretty stoked. But the real test was that afternoon and evening. I was going to the office, then that evening a date night was planned with the wife. The Marvels had no idea what was coming.

Test #1: The Office

At work, the Marvels performed better than expected. I tried a couple of different programs in the open space of my office (“Calm Situation 1” enabled me to hear across the room with better clarity). I certainly wasn’t able to understand everyone, and group meetings were still going to be a battle, but the comfort was there, as was a nice crisp and clean sound. After a few hours, I forgot I was wearing them (a huge benefit!). I was conversing with coworkers, cracking jokes, being me. I’d not only found hearing aids that worked for me, I’d found my personality again.

Test #2: Date at a Loud Restaurant

I’m sure if hearing aids could talk, they’d say some very ugly things about loud restaurants. The noise causes so many mechanical issues for the devices. I picture tiny little workers in the control booth of my aids. Alarms blaring, lights are flashing, different programs turning on and off trying to make sense of the chaos.

“Just turn it all on,” the tiny Foreman would yell. “Give her all she’s got!”

I don’t know what’s inside the Marvels, but it seemed like everything was under control. We were at a restaurant called Bar Casa Vale, which serves Spanish-inspired foods along with a boisterous ambiance. We were seated out on the patio, with about six other tables, near a gas fire pit and under a canvas cover with dimly lit bulbs hanging above.

Read more: My experience with Phonak Audeo B-R hearing aids

The moment we sat down at our table, the Autosense feature on the Marvels immediately popped into the Speech in Noise function. All the voices around us were muffled, but Kate’s voice in front of me was completely clear. It was a strange sensation at first, but I got used to it very quickly. On the Phonak website, it says the Marvels have a highly sophisticated four microphone technology that’s been proven to improve speech understanding in noisy restaurants by 60 percent. That sounded about right to me. I even understood the server when she told us the specials for the night. That never happens (until now!).

“I even understood the server when she told us the specials for the night.”

Test #3: 70s vs. 80s Video Dance Attack at the Crystal Ballroom

At one point in the evening, the disco ball was spinning gloriously overhead, sending shimmering specks of light dancing throughout the room. I imagined the light capturing my Alpine White hearing aids, illuminating them for all to see.

“I imagined the light capturing my Alpine White hearing aids, illuminating them for all to see.”

“Look at the high-tech sexiness on that guy,” I imagined all the ladies on the dance floor saying.

“He’s mine! Back off,” Kate would yell, fighting off all the women attracted not to me, but to the amazingly beautiful shiny white devices over my ears.

The Marvels worked beautifully in all the tests I put them through. I was proud of myself that I stayed persistent in my search, that I didn’t stop “til I got enough.”

Throughout the night, I introduced the Marvels to Prince, Blondie, Rick James, and many others. I was working hard on my awkward dance moves, and the Marvels were working hard as well. What a relief it was to know that I had finally found the devices that I was looking for. And as an added benefit, I was able to find myself in the process. I was comfortable being me – dancing on the inside and out.

Products mentioned in the article:

 

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4 Tips for cooking with hearing loss

The sizzling of bacon, the bubbling pops of water boiling, the splash of oil on a hot pan. 

 

 

 

 

cooking with hearing loss

 

 

 

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5 Tips for Adjusting to New Hearing Aids at Work

Dealing with hearing loss at work can be challenging, but not addressing it can be even more detrimental to your career.

Colleagues with hearing loss often have a reputation for not being very attentive or for not listening to instructions. This can seriously damage promotional chances and work relations, as it is important to have a good opinion of those we work with. It is one thing to have colleagues complain that you don’t listen and even have them tell you that you need a hearing test, but it is a different thing entirely to discover that in fact you do have a hearing problem.

If you’ve taken the step to get hearing aids, congratulations! Now comes the challenge of getting use to them, informing your colleagues and making them a normal part of your life. Adjusting to new hearing aids at work may seem intimidating, but here are five tips that will make it easier.

5 Tips for Adjusting to New Hearing Aids at Work

Be Honest

Misunderstandings about your hearing loss can over be overcome through perseverance and education. To make it easier, it’s important to be totally honest from the start, both with yourself and with others. Trying to run away from hearing loss or avoid it helps nobody and will make things worse in the short term.

Tell your colleagues and your boss about your hearing loss diagnosis, whether in a formal meeting setting or individually. It is better to tell people that you’re close to all at once, so they are informed by you and not from others. Consider showing them your hearing aids and the technology that you’re using, and tell them how it works. Remember to tell them that they don’t need to yell or speak differently to you, as the hearing aids will do that work for them, amplifying their voices when needed.

If people are intimidated by your needs, it’s important to not be confrontational, as this tends to only make others defensive. Understanding and patience is the only thing that will help at a time like this.

Read more Working with Hearing Loss: 7 Tips for Perfecting your Résumé

Explain your Needs

Explain as early as possible to those in authority not only about your hearing loss diagnosis, but also about the ways it will change your interactions. Be careful to explain that given a little time and effort, it will make not only your life better, but will also greatly enhance your working relationships with those around you.

Do make certain you explain that there will be an adjustment period and what they can expect during this time.

The same goes for friends, colleagues and workmates. They may be feeling a mixture of confusion and fear that you will not be the same person, so take time to explain, attempt to find humour in the situation, if this is in your nature. Reassure them that once you adjust to your new aids, that they will make communication easier and misunderstandings happen a lot less.

Read more: The Benefits of Hiring Deaf and Hard of Hearing People 

Use your Technology

Those newly diagnosed with hearing loss often go through the stages of grief, as they come to terms with the changes in their life.

The effort of learning to use hearing aids and giving your brain time to adjust to it is no easy task, and in the early days there is a very real tendency of wanting to put the thing away and just go back to how life used to be.

Don’t do this! Audiologists will tell you that it takes around three weeks for the brain to adjust to the new amplified audio signals being sent into the ears and, until this adjustment period is over, it can be a very confusing and annoying experience. But it will get better, and soon you’ll notice all the sounds you were previously missing.

The changes experienced at this time are not only felt by the new hearing aid wearer, but also by those they come in contact with, particularly their family, social group and work colleagues. Be patient and continue using your technology. Soon, no one will notice the difference.

Know your Technology

You’re your own best advocate. Knowing your needs in the workplace also comes from knowing about your technology. Make sure you know how your hearing aids work, so that you can explain to others if necessary. You never know, maybe another colleague needs hearing aids and they would like to know how they work.

Knowing about your technology may also open you up to other products and resources that you can use at work, such as the Phonak Roger Pen, the Phonak Roger Table Mic or phones that connect directly to your hearing device. These tools may make it even easier to work than even before your hearing loss.

Ask for Help when Needed

If you’re having trouble adjusting to your hearing aids at work and need help, remember you can always go back to your audiologist for help or advice.

Remember, wearing hearing aids is a good thing and it can really make a huge positive impact on your life, but nothing good ever comes without a little hard work.

Be gentle with yourself and do try to relax. Allow yourself to make mistakes, as you slowly feel your way back into hearing again. Within a short time your hearing aids should begin to really make a difference.