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Getting personal with hearing loss

Contributed by | Tuesday, July 28th, 2015

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Hearing loss is someone else’s problem – until it happens to you or someone you love. Healthy Hearing staff write a lot of articles about hearing loss – how to prevent it, what to do when you discover you have it; but we thought you’d like to hear directly from our readers who are impacted by it. For these individuals, hearing loss is personal – whether they have it themselves or are impacted by someone who does.

Individuals with hearing loss speak out

hearing loss conversation
We asked and you spoke out! We wanted
to know what the conversation about
hearing loss meant to you!

It’s tough to be part of the conversation ...

“Sometimes you don’t hear or understand what the person said the first time and don’t want to be perceived as annoying if you ask to repeat what they said over again, especially in group conversations,” Mark Lara said.

Linda Whipple agrees. “I love my family very much but sometimes I wish they all knew how hard I really try to stay connected to them and try to keep my annoying “what’d you say?” at bay,” she said. “It’s not that I don’t want to participate, but listening to several family members conversations at once is like running a marathon with my eyes closed.”

… but it’s not necessary to shout.

“I tell people I have a hearing problem so they scream,” Sheila Neelan said. “I scream right back, saying “I’m not deaf yet but keep screaming in my ears and I will be.”

Maybe we should give you some reminders for communicating with someone with hearing loss:

  • Make sure you’re in the same room before you begin speaking.
  • If possible, make sure the room is well-lit.
  • At a family dinner, give them a seat at the end of the table so they can see everyone’s faces when they speak.
  • Get their attention and face them directly before speaking.
  • Speak slowly and clearly.
  • Keep your hands away from your face and mouth when you speak.

With tinnitus, the brain is a noisy place

“You know those people that can’t sleep without a fan on? Well, going deaf and having tinnitus fixes that,” Larry Norman said. “It sounds like a nice, steady machine running in my head. The brain is a noisy place.”

Norman is talking about a disorder that affects more than 25 million Americans annually. People with tinnitus often describe hearing a constant ringing, buzzing or hissing in their ears. According to the National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), sometimes it’s the first sign of hearing loss in older adults. Because it can also be a symptom of another problem, such as an ear infection, heart disease, brain tumor or thyroid abnormality, it’s important to get it checked out by a hearing healthcare professional.

Individuals living with untreated hearing loss speak up

If you know someone with hearing loss, be kind. If you have hearing loss, get it treated sooner rather than later. 

“I would like people to know that our hearing is important,” Alina Marinca Maria said. We take it too much for granted. I’m hearing impaired and I wish people wouldn’t make fun of me for it. For those resisting hearing aids, other people notice hearing loss way more than hearing aids. Furthermore, the longer you wait to get help, the less hearing you get back when you do finally get help. We do no one any favors by denying we have a problem and refusing to get help, least of all ourselves. So please, be kind to those with hearing loss and get help when that person is you.”

Marinca Maria is right. The longer you wait to treat hearing loss, the harder it is to adapt to hearing aids. That’s because the brain is very involved with our sense of hearing. The ears collect the noise, translate it into electrical impulses and send it along the auditory nerve so the brain can interpret it as recognizable sound. When our ears lose the ability to make the translation, the auditory part of our brain begins to atrophy.

Not only that, but you’re often not the only one affected by your hearing loss.

“I want to tell my dad, who has untreated hearing loss, that there are so many benefits to wearing hearing aids, like hearing his grandchildren when they’re trying to get his attention,” Mandy Mroz said.

Hearing aids can improve your quality of life

Individuals with untreated hearing loss are more at risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, anxiety and depression. Although hearing aids can’t fully restore your hearing, they may be able to improve it. Today’s hearing aid technology is digital and works with your favorite electronic devices, such as your smartphone, computer and television. Once a hearing healthcare professional determines what type of hearing loss you have and if you will benefit from wearing a hearing device, they can help you decide what type of hearing aid is best for your budget and lifestyle. Are they worth it? Consumer satisfactions surveys reveal more than 80 percent of hearing aid users — such as Christine Reimann Biers and Susanne Friday Jones — have better quality of life and would recommend hearing aids to friends and family who need them.

“I wish people who don’t have hearing loss could understand how unfair it feels, how left out I feel from certain situations and how it feels to be made fun of because of a disability,” Reimann Biers said. “With my hearing aids I feel much more confident and a lot less depressed, but I still have some days and situations that are unpleasant. Not perfect, but much better. So for all those who are putting it off, it’s worth it to save up and help yourself if possible.”

Friday Jones agreed. “I want everyone with untreated hearing loss to know how much hearing aids can improve your life,” she said. “I think sometimes people just don’t realize the impact hearing better can have. When you finally do it, you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it sooner!”

Now that you’ve heard firsthand how hearing loss impacts individuals and their families, make sure you continue to be part of the conversation. Be kind to those with hearing loss, get your hearing tested and if you’re diagnosed with hearing loss, seek treatment as soon as possible.

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