Many of us can be misinformed when it comes to hearing loss. This could be because there is a certain social stigma about hearing loss in the world that prevents us from knowing more about the condition.
You might not realize that this is America’s third most common health condition, and is more prevalent than diabetes or cancer. Given how widespread hearing loss is, it is often referred to as an “invisible” disease because it can not be readily detected or recognized unless someone tells you directly.
Society can still be remarkably uninformed when it comes to hearing loss, so to help clear up some misconceptions, here is a list of the things people with hearing loss would like you to know.
“It looks like I’m rude, but I’m not.”
Spoken recognition is one of the primary challenges with hearing loss. It is especially challenging to recognize speech in noisy environments. Therefore, don’t take it personally if you try to communicate with someone who has compromised hearing, and you don’t get an answer! Chances are, the individual wasn’t noticed.
Keep in mind at the same time that people with hearing loss are not rude. If you don’t get a proper response to what you’re saying, the person has probably misunderstood you.
“It looks like I’m unintelligent, but I’m not.”
Although it may go without saying, intellect is not bound to hearing loss. But some tend to talk to a person with hearing loss as if they were a child. It’s a great idea to make small changes to the way you communicate to accommodate those with hearing loss, but you don’t have to shorten your language or speak slowly.
The problem a person faces with hearing loss is primarily the inability to hear, and that creates a struggle to understand what a person means. Yet that issue is not the same as not being intelligent enough to understand complex ideas or advanced vocabulary.
“Hearing loss makes me exhausted.”
Possibly one of the hardest things to understand about hearing loss is how it can quickly exhaust the person with hearing loss. The hearing loss leaves you guessing, filling in the blanks, and trying to follow the conversations with half the words that are missing. A day of this can quickly tire out the most energetic of people.
“Hearing aids don’t work like glasses.”
Unlike a pair of glasses that boost someone’s vision right away, hearing aids don’t work the same way. Where eyeglasses make a blurry image clear, restoring the vision to almost normal, hearing devices work as a mechanism to help permanent hearing loss.
Hearing aids are extremely useful in enhancing hearing ability by amplifying sounds, blocking background noise, and improving process sound to those who experience hearing loss. However, they don’t bring one’s hearing back to normal. Learning this knowledge helps a lot in how we converse with people who have hearing loss.
“I need certain things from you to continue the conversation.”
Consider the following suggestions when interacting with a person wearing hearing aids to help them achieve effective communication with less stress.
- Get their attention. An easy way to communicate easier is to get the attention of the hearing aid users before they start talking. Whether it’s smiling, tapping the person on the shoulder, or making eye contact and saying their name, this will tell the listener you’d like to start a conversation. This allows them to shift their attention and catch the beginning of what is being said.
- Use visual cues. One of the most significant benefits of face-to-face contact is that listeners can take advantage of optical or lip-reading signals. For those with hearing loss, this advantage is even more significant. Nevertheless, decades of research have shown that adding visual cues to speech yields significant gains in speech comprehension, especially in adverse listening circumstances.
- Try repeating and rephrasing. When repetition doesn’t work, consider using different words for the same thing. For example, if “Let’s meet at nine” doesn’t work, you could say ‘How about nine o clock?”.
“Please don’t give up.”
We know it can be hard to have conversations with someone who has a hearing loss, but the extra effort is much appreciated. Please be patient with a communication partner for hearing loss and don’t resort to saying “never mind” or stopping the conversation when the effort seems too high. With a little patience and work, you can continue to have stimulating interactions with those in your life that are suffering from hearing loss.