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Why I decided to wear my hearing aids

 

For a long time in my life I had a love/hate relationship with my hearing aids and navigating my hearing journey was a challenge.

Starting from elementary school, I immediately took on the label as the only hard of hearing child at school because my visible hearing aids and I had a sound field system.

At times it was no problem, but of course there were tough times too.

I remember my classmate’s mom spoke to my mom at a neighborhood event and described how her son didn’t like his class because the deaf girl was in it and the speaker was always too loud. Little did his mom know that she was talking to the ‘deaf girl’s’ mom.

Moments like these combined with having trouble hearing in social situations made me feel like my hearing loss was an inconvenience to myself and others, which made me want to be a part of the hearing world.

Looking back in elementary school and middle school I wore my hearing aids because I had to.

Choosing the wrong path for me

When I had more independence in high school and college, I often chose not to wear my hearing aids. I chose to miss out on sounds of life to avoid dealing with the social consequences I thought came with wearing hearing aids. My insecurities had won me over and I just wanted to fit in.

“I chose to miss out on sounds of life to avoid dealing with the social consequences I thought came with wearing hearing aids.”

I knew I could get away with not wearing hearing aids because I am a lip reader.

If I didn’t hear someone from far away or behind me I had accumulated excuses as to why I didn’t hear them.

I was frequently told it seemed like I didn’t have a hearing loss, which just encouraged my thinking that I didn’t need to wear hearing aids.

Whether I would admit to it or not, I did know that I was missing out on a lot without my hearing aids. When I would try to go back to wearing hearing aids, my brain would have to retrain itself, which resulted in more headaches and change.

I was stuck in a vicious circle.

A time came when I finally met deaf and hard of hearing teens for the first time. I was so grateful to be friends with a group of people that I could relate to, but it was only to a certain extent. Due to my hearing loss not being very severe, I couldn’t relate to many of their experiences. Again I couldn’t feel like I could fit in. I caught in the middle between two worlds.

Getting back on track

When I graduated college I finally realized that I don’t need to choose a route, I  just needed to learn how to navigate my middle ground.

I have learned to be grateful that I can relate to both hearing world and the hard of hearing world. It has taken 23 years for me to reach this point, but it is better late than never!

“It has taken 23 years for me to reach this point, but it is better late than never!”

I hope that by sharing my story, I can inspire others to realize they are not alone if they have ever been in a similar position along their hearing journey.

Here are 3 tips for learning how to wear your hearing aids more:

Understand the power of your hearing aids

Know that your hearing aids aren’t going to magically help you hear everything. I know that I get frustrated when I don’t catch a sound while wearing my hearing aids. I catch myself thinking that because I have a mild/moderate hearing loss, my hearing aids should be able to pick up everything I am missing. This isn’t true.

Your hearing aids will help you, but it’s important to continue to advocate for the accommodations you may need or use another method that may help you. Whether it is a hearing accessory, closed captions, hearing rehab or sign language there are plenty of helping tools available.

Seek out support

If you are someone like me, who was the only hard of hearing child at school, receiving support from other hard of hearing people can be very helpful! Connect with local hearing groups, join the HearingLikeMe forum, participate in online chats, such as #hearinglosshour on Twitter. Sharing experiences will help you feel less alone, more confident with your hearing technology and can help inspire you to live confidently with your hearing loss.

Have patience and acceptance

Be patient with yourself as you learn to hear with your hearing aids. It is a process to get used to wearing your hearing aids. As technology improves, hearing aids are becoming easier to take care of and are more adaptable to modern lifestyles. Once I got in the habit of wearing my hearing aids I experienced a boost in confidence, I felt motivated to discover how I could utilize my hearing aid technology in tough listening environments and I experienced less concentration fatigue. This gave me more gratitude for hearing technology and how my hearing aids have helped me.

Read more: Hearing Aid Fitting Day: The Ups, Downs and Why It’s Worth It

Also having patience when learning how to advocate for yourself is important. Even if you feel like your hearing loss isn’t severe enough to receive accommodations, it doesn’t matter! Everyone’s accommodations differ depending on their hearing loss. Take time to explore and see what works best for you.

Read more: Teens with Hearing Loss: How to be an Advocate for your Education

Accept that you are unique in your own way and that you set your own pace for your hearing journey. Practice talking about your hearing loss with others, to prepare for a dialogue that may need to happen with someone who does not understand hearing loss or is only familiar with stigmas. This dialogue can also be useful if someone dismisses your hearing loss by saying that you can hear fine and don’t need extra hearing help. Education is key to breaking down barriers and can change a person’s outlook on how they view hearing loss.

Living with a hearing loss is a journey just as life is. There will be ups and downs and plenty of learning opportunities. Taking the time to find what accommodations and modes of communication work best for you is worth it in the end!

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Who is at risk from noise-induced hearing loss?

Noise-induced hearing loss affects about 15 percent of Americans.

Some people may get noise-induced hearing loss from one very loud noise, such as an explosion, and others from prolonged exposure to loud noise over time. There are two factors that affect the likelihood of noise causing damage to hearing – the power of the sound, and the length of exposure to it. The louder the sound, the shorter the amount of time it takes for damage to occur.

So, how loud is too loud and, how long is too long? 

How loud is too loud?

Any sound above 85dB can cause hearing loss after approximately eight hours of continuous exposure. However, if the noise level is 100dB, your hearing could be damaged in as little as 15 minutes.

Who is at risk from noise-induced hearing loss?

Unsurprisingly, airport ground staff who direct the take-off and landing of jets are possibly subjected to the most noise in terms of both power and length of exposure. Formula One Drivers and crew are also exposed to high noise levels for prolonged periods of time. Construction workers too, may face regular exposure to very loud sounds. (A hammer drill can register up to 120dB.) In each of these industries, workers should be given ear protectors whilst at work.

In the US, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has set the following limits in order to protect workers from noise-induced hearing loss:

OSHA Daily Permissible Noise Level Exposure
Hours per day Sound level
8 90dB
6 92dB
4 95dB
3 97dB
2 100dB
1.5 102dB
1 105dB
.5 110dB
.25 or less 115dB

In the UK, The Health and Safety Executive requires employers to provide hearing protection is the daily of weekly average of noise exposure exceeds 85 dB. Employers must assess workers’ health risk and provide information and training at 80 dB. Workers must not be exposed to more than 87 dBof noise – taking account of any reduction in exposure provided by hearing protection.

MP3 users

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Others who are at risk but who may not realize it are those who regularly listen to music via headphones. In order to be heard above the noise of the subway, or traffic, the volume can sometimes be turned up as high as 100dB, which is considered to be a dangerously high level.

Musicians

Violist sues Royal Opera House for hearing damage

Many famous musicians have spoken about how their continued exposure to sounds around 110dB has affected their hearing. And it’s not just rock stars who are at risk – classical musicians are also regularly exposed to sounds of around 95dB.

People who work in live music venues and nightclubs may also be frequently subjected to noise as loud as 115dB or 155dB. Again, their employer should provide them with ear protectors.

Recreational activities

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Other recreational activities that can put you at risk for NIHL include target shooting and hunting, snowmobile riding, playing in a band, and attending loud concerts, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. Harmful noises at home may come from sources including lawnmowers, leaf blowers and woodworking tools.

How to protect your hearing

If you know you are going to be exposed to loud sounds for a long period of time, it’s a good idea to get some form of ear protection such as ear defenders or ear plugs.

About 1.1 billion people around the world are affected by hearing loss, including more young people than ever. If we want to enjoy the sounds of life it’s time we be more active to protect our ears.

Make these small changes to save your hearing.

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14 invaluable pieces of advice from moms of children with hearing loss

 

 

Parenting a child with a hearing loss can be very similar, but also very different to parenting a hearing child.  There can be challenges –  big and small – and I am starting to realise a lot of these challenges can be met with frustration, for both myself and for Harry.

When I first found out that Harry had hearing loss, I loved reading advice from other mothers. So, in celebration of Mother’s Day, I asked mothers of children with a hearing loss for their best piece of parenting advice.

Here’s what they have to say: 

“The first thing to remember is that your child is a child before they are a deaf child.” Judi, mum of Alex (7)

“The difference is mainly that there is more emphasis on the visual side of things.  Otherwise bringing up a deaf child isn’t much different.”- Sarah, mum of Alby (11)

“Repitition, repetition, repetition!  The more you repeat words and language the more your child will pick it up.” – Lucy, mum of Zach (2)

“Don’t put too much pressure on language and let them guide you with what they are most interested in.  Our son is car crazy so he was quicker to learn the names of car parts and tool than anything else!” – Ellen, mum of Ben (3)

“Learning to swim is crucial for a deaf child.  If they get into trouble in the water they might not be able to hear people or sounds around them.” – Ashleigh, mum of Lilly (7)

“Sometimes we have to spend more time with our child when in social situations as it can be overwhelming.  I often have to encourage her to join in by getting down at her level and joining in myself!” – Mandy, mum of Isabel (2)

“There are so many books around that are so visually stimulating they will help immensely with language and sign skills.  A lot of children’s books are repetitive and involve actions that your little one will pick up really quickly.” – Sarah, mum of Teddy (2)

“A lot of emotions can come with being a deaf child.  Try to be understanding and sympathetic without letting them get away with murder!” – Laura, mum of Henry (15)

“Learning some basic sign language really helped us to relieve some communication frustrations with our toddler.” – Monika, mum of Loren (1)

“We put sticky labels on various objects around the house so that our daughter can see the word written as well as the actual object, to give her a helping hand with what sign or word it is associated with.” – Natalie, mum of Robyn (8)

“Try to encourage your little one to say or sign what they want rather than just pointing, to encourage them to communicate.” – Laura, mum of Harry (2)

“I have made a scrapbook for our 2 year old daughter with pictures of all our family and friends to show her who they all are to her and their names.  I will then show her using the book who we will be seeing that day so she knows exactly what we will be doing.” – Frances, mum of Elsa (2)

“Try to be very patient and do not get frustrated when you need to repeat something to your child.  They may need more time to process what you’re saying than a hearing child” – Orla, mum of Ellis (5)

“Bear in mind that hearing can be very tiring for a child with a hearing loss.  Our little boy is so tired after a day at school and we trying to get him tucked up in bed early to get some well needed rest!” – Rebecca, mum of Alex (7)

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4 Listening Skills to Practice with your Hard-of-Hearing Child

When you have good hearing, it’s easy to take normal everyday sounds for granted without even realizing it.

However, for someone with hearing loss, developing listening skills takes practice. Even the beep of a microwave or the tweet of a bird can be totally new and surprising.

If you have a deaf child with a hearing aid or cochlear implant, I’m sure you’re used to visiting centres for speech and listening therapies. As helpful as those structured sessions are for developing listening skills, sometimes it’s easy for little ones to get bored and switch off because it’s a forced activity.

So here’s how we practice listening skills:

Get Outside

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Lately, I have found that going for a simple walk outdoors and talking about all the different noises we can hear has proven to be more effective for Harry’s listening skills than anything else we have tried. Try stomping through a pile of crunchy leaves this fall and watch your child’s reaction to the rustling sound it makes. You could talk about the difference between the noise of a dry autumnal leaf as opposed to a fresh green leaf on a tree.

Harry and I like to sit on a bench watching different vehicles go past, and we talk about how a bus or truck make a ‘big noisy sound’, whereas a car is quiet and a bicycle, even quieter.

Go Shopping

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I know going to a supermarket with a pre-schooler can be most parents’ idea of hell, but why not turn it into a listening experience?

Harry’s favorite thing to do is to listen to the cashier ‘bleeping’ the shopping at the checkout. I also like to ask Harry to go and get me apples or the milk and put them in the basket to test his listening abilities.

In the Car

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There are so many different sounds in the car: the turn signals, horn, sirens whizzing past, and music coming through the speakers. I always used to worry that Harry would be overwhelmed in the car with all of these noises going on around him, but he has always really loved it.

We talk about things in and around the car and Harry often asks me. “What’s that?” when he hears a new sound.

At Home
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Of course, you don’t actually have to go anywhere to have a listening experience, as there are hundreds of noises to hear in the comfort of your own home. We spend a lot of time in the kitchen and Harry loves sitting and waiting for the microwave to ‘ping’.

You could talk about the noise of a boiling kettle, or running water; what sausages sound like when they are sizzling in a pan, or the sound when toasts pops out of the toaster.

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Hearing aid outcomes in older adults Implications for millions of adults with hearing loss

The first-ever placebo-controlled, double-blind, randomized clinical trial of hearing aid outcomes published today in the American Journal of Audiology shows that older adults benefit from hearing aid use.

Led by researchers at Indiana University with funding support (Grant No. R01 DC011771) from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), the study sought to compare patient outcomes when hearing aids are delivered via an audiology “best practices” model compared with an “over-the-counter” (OTC) model. In the context of this study, the OTC model meant that patients received a high-quality, pre-programmed hearing aid that was not fitted by an audiologist.

The methodology is generally considered the highest standard for clinical trials.

“The research findings provide firm evidence that hearing aids do, in fact, provide significant benefit to older adults,” said Larry Humes, PhD, CCC-A, a distinguished professor in the Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences at Indiana University Bloomington and the study’s lead author. “This is important because, even though millions of Americans have hearing loss, there has been an absence of rigorous clinical research that has demonstrated clear benefits provided by hearing aids to older adults. Consequently, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has not been able to support widespread hearing screening for adults over age 50. This study, along with others to follow, will help establish the evidence base needed to foster better hearing health care for many older Americans.”

The study looked at 154 adults ages 55-79 years with mild-to-moderate hearing loss. All participants received the same high-end digital mini hearing aids fitted in both ears. Subjects were divided into three groups. One (the best practices group) received “best practices” services from audiologists that included professional fitting and counseling; one (the OTC group) received no professional fitting by an audiologist and selected their own pre-programmed hearing aids; and one (the placebo group) received a professional fitting but used a hearing aid that was programmed to provide no acoustical benefit.

Researchers found that hearing aids are effective in older adults for both the audiology best practices model and the OTC model. There were no significant differences in outcome between these two service-delivery approaches for five of the six outcome measures, but the OTC group fared somewhat worse when it came to satisfaction with their hearing aids. Fewer OTC participants were also likely to purchase their hearing aids after the trial (55% for the OTC group vs. 81% for the best practices group, with 36% for the placebo group). Following the initial 6-week trial, both the OTC and placebo groups were offered hearing aids under the best practices model. Satisfaction significantly increased for patients in both groups who chose to continue under audiologist care, and more participants opted to purchase their hearing aids after this continued period of care than after the initial trial.

In the United States, a large discrepancy exists between the number of people who could benefit from hearing aids and those who actually wear them. Close to 29 million U.S. adults could benefit from using hearing aids, according to NIDCD. Yet, among adults aged 70 and older with hearing loss who could benefit from wearing hearing aids, fewer than one in three (30%) have ever used them. Even fewer adults aged 20-69 (approximately 16%) who could benefit have ever used them.

In the study, researchers noted that NIDCD has prioritized identifying research areas that could lead to the improvement of hearing health care for adults with mild-to-moderate hearing loss — in particular, enhancing the accessibility and affordability of hearing health care. This study helps answer a high-priority research question of how current delivery systems can be used or modified to increase accessibility and affordability of hearing health care, according to study authors.

“More studies are needed to assess the generalization of the results obtained here to other patient populations, other devices, and other models of OTC service delivery,” said Humes, adding, “All of the devices used in this study were of high quality as opposed to the simpler, less expensive devices many associate with an OTC model. Also, all patients received a complete audiologic evaluation prior to treatment — another potential difference from some OTC models under consideration. These factors could impact patient outcomes. However, the results of this study should serve as a yardstick for comparing outcomes of future hearing aid studies.”


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Materials provided by American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.