adolescent-adult-blur-933964-1024x480

5 everyday hearing loss challenges made a little easier

When you have hearing loss, it is inevitable that you’ll experience challenges, but, that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing you can do to make your life easier.

There is an old saying that “knowledge is power,” and, without resorting to any other cliches, it doesn’t hurt to be prepared, especially when going into certain situations. Here are 5 hearing loss challenges that can be made easier through advocacy.

Hearing loss challenges

1. When darkness falls

Light isn’t something that comes to mind when you think about hearing issues. However, trust me, when the light fails problems are often not that far behind. You see whether you realize it or not, if you are hard of hearing, the chances are that you rely on light more than you think in your overall daily communication.

You don’t have to know sign language to seek clarification when holding a conversation with someone.

We all use body language during conversations, communication is far more than words, we not only use such things as pitch and depth, but we also focus on the face. The human face conveys what is being experienced in a person’s emotional system. When facing another person while talking, we are constantly looking for clues as to the exact meaning of their words.

Also, people who have hearing loss tend to lip read, whether they’re aware of it or not. This is why you might find yourself really looking hard at someone’s face if you’re struggling to hear them. Because of these reasons if at all possible try to avoid areas when you go out which are too dark.

If you go to the cinema explain to whoever you’re with that you need to just concentrate on the movie, but will be happy to talk when you come out after.

Avoid those romantic candlelit dinners and, instead, opt for bright enough mood lighting. This way you’ll be able to eat and talk without missing out on a large part of the communication.

“Avoid those romantic candlelit dinners and, instead, opt for bright enough mood lighting.”

2. Not being tapped on the shoulder

One of the most annoying things, and, this happens almost every day, is when a person begins speaking to you, having not got your attention first. Those of us with hearing difficulties often find it almost impossible to hear the first word or two spoken. This is because our concentration is somewhere else.

It can also be linked to our technology. For example, my hearing aids have automatic volume controls. This means that if a voice suddenly speaks they will take a short time to tune that sound in. It might be a split second to the hearing aid, but to me, it can mean one or two words missing from a sentence. I am then forced to ask them to repeat what they have just said.

This can then lead to the other person wrongly assuming that either my hearing aids are not working or that they are not speaking loud enough.

Often this scenario ends in the other person shouting when there really is no need at all. Thankfully, if the person is a friend or relative or even if they are new to you, there is something which is very easy and, also happens to be extremely effective. Having explained that your hearing aid needs a moment to enable you to tune into a conversation, simply ask that should the person want your attention at any time, to firmly tap you on the shoulder.

Shoulder tapping is very well known within the Deaf community but tends to be underused in the hearing loss community.

3. Jump scare city

When you have hearing loss sounds can easily take on different meanings and it’s all too easy to become startled.

The problem is that hearing aids are not perfect. Despite how amazing they can be, they only operate really well when you are facing a person directly. The microphones fitted inside aids will often fail to distinguish background from the foreground and, this can lead to confusion.

To make things more comfortable for yourself try to make sure that you are always seated in a corner facing out when sitting in cafe’s, coffee shops and restaurants. Nothing can spoil an evening out like jumping out of your skin every few minutes because of not being aware of where people are coming from. Also, when going into a place for the first time, take a moment or two to familiarize yourself with the overall layout of the place. Try to arrange it so that you can sit away from the bar or shop counter.

“To make things more comfortable for yourself try to make sure that you are always seated in a corner facing out when sitting in cafe’s, coffee shops and restaurants.”

By doing this you can avoid having to fight through a barrage of noise from both customers and staff. As well as coffee machines, cocktail shakers, and other miscellaneous s sounds.

Just by knowing your surroundings and the placement of both people and objects, you can make your experience so much better.

4. Public announcements

Whenever you find yourself having to use crowded public areas where passengers congregate, such as airports, train and bus stations, here is something to bear in mind, if you would like to save yourself a headache or two.

Hearing people struggle with understanding announcers coming across public address systems at the best of times, doubt that? Just stand and watch your fellow passengers expressions, as they attempt to unravel whether what has just been said might apply to them.

Save yourself the hassle and, don’t even try to struggle with announcements, instead I do one of the following things.

Be certain to check online ahead of time any and all information that will be useful for your journey.

See if you can get an app for your mobile phone. The chances are that you’ll be able to get a free app which will allow you to keep up on any and all arrivals, departures and changes.

Read more: Tips for using public transportation with hearing loss

As soon as you come in through the entrance look around and find the information desk or kiosk. If you head over to them, they’re certain to have all of the up to the minute information and you will be talking one on one.

You should also look for illuminated signboards; these will show all important relevant helpful information.

5. Caring for hearing technology

We need to all be very thankful for the amazing hearing technology which we wear day after day and, which allows us a pathway into the hearing world.

Inside that small plastic shell is housed some very high-quality sophisticated equipment. These miniature computers can be delicate and need taking good care of.

Look after your hearing aids and, they will be free to do their job perfectly.

The good news, is that looking after a hearing aid is not rocket science. As long as you do one or two things right, they practically take care of themselves.

Be certain to change your batteries on a regular basis, as these can leak and, if this happens it can damage the aid. Also, always be sure to carry spare batteries, because you never know when you might need them.

Avoid moisture and be sure to always store your aids in a dry place. You can always get a dry cup. This is used with a drying tablet which removes moisture and, will keep it perfectly dry, when not in use.

Keep aids clean, be sure to wipe off any wax which has accumulated. On the device or mould. You can use a soft toothbrush or a cotton bud, do this very gently.

If you keep these 5 things in mind, you’ll easily be able to turn potential problems into challenges you are happy to meet head-on.

Living with hearing loss is not difficult as long as you are well prepared and you do a little forward thinking and planning.

warningsigns-1024x480

Five Warning Signs That Your Partner Might Have Hearing Loss

The warning signs that your partner might have hearing loss are more obvious than you’d think.

Hearing loss isn’t something most people expect to encounter in their day to day lives. Because of this, it all too often goes unnoticed. I know this from personal experience. In my case, it was my wife Raine who first noticed that something was wrong. Of course it took her a good many years before she managed to persuade me that I might just have a little problem.

Challenges

The biggest challenge to overcome is one born of assumptions. It’s the old idea that hearing loss is something which happens to certain types of people – “not me.” Society by and large chooses to ignore the whole topic of deafness. Instead, the focus is on so called “normal” as the perceived status quo. If only mainstream and medical education made hearing loss a necessary subject open for discussion, things would be a lot easier. Instead, we all need to be aware of this invisible disability. We can help each other spot this often elusive challenge to day to day living.

So, how do we see the unseen? Sounds impossible, right? Not quite. We just need to look for the tell-tale signs. If someone is struggling with his or her hearing, the signs will be there.

“If someone is struggling with their hearing, the signs will be there.”

1) The Wayward Volume Control

This is an easy one to spot. When the TV volume begins to creep up past the comfortable range, it’s time to pay less attention to what’s happening on the box and more to the partner beside you. Is your partner beginning to lean in the direction that the sound is coming from?

2) I Beg Your Pardon

If you’ve begun to notice that your partner is constantly asking you to repeat what you’ve just said, you might want to consider whether it could be a hearing issue coming to the surface. Assuming you don’t mumble and that you have no problem being understood by others, this can be an indicator that your loved one is experiencing hearing difficulty. You will notice that this gets worse in crowded places such as coffee shops, cafes and restaurants, where there are many different competing sounds..

3) I’m Putting You Through Now

If you notice your partner struggling to make him/herself understood on the phone and making excuses not to make phone calls, this could be a wake-up call. Often telephone conversations can be a nightmare for those developing hearing loss. You may notice him/her changing which ear s/he holds the handset up to; this can indicate a drop of hearing in one ear. S/he will also develop a tendency of constantly asking the other person to repeat themselves.

4) Honestly, I’m So Stressed These Days

When a person who is usually easy going suddenly becomes stressed and short-tempered in social situations and this wasn’t the case before, this can be a sign of hearing loss. Of course, with this indicator, you would need to look for it coupled with other signs. It could be an emotional issue, something work-based, or even a health issue. However, with the gradual loss of hearing, stress does tend to climb toward the ceiling. It is difficult trying to keep your temper in the face of what can feel like a conspiracy being waged against you. When those around you appear to be communicating perfectly well, it can feel isolating to realize that you’re having problems.

5) Just Let Me Walk on the Other Side for a Change

When someone we know begins to make changes in daily habits, such as suddenly wanting to change sides when walking beside us, this can be a good sign that all is not well in the hearing department.

Read more: Why I finally decided my dad needs hearing aids

Be Vigilant

As you can see from the five areas I have put under the spotlight, it isn’t all that difficult to notice that something is wrong. Just keep your eyes and ears open to the warning signs that something might be amiss.

Untitled-design-21-1024x480

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.

 

man2-1024x480

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.

 

Untitled-design-11-1024x480

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: