Let the new year inspire a new start with your hearing loss
Editor's note: Shari Eberts is a passionate advocate for people with hearing loss and creator of the popular blog Living with Hearing Loss. We are proud to feature her on Healthy Hearing with this timely message for taking action in the new year.
People sometimes have a hard time accepting that they have a hearing loss and put off doing anything about it, including getting a hearing test. Other people with hearing loss wear hearing aids, but are dissatisfied with how they work because they do not keep up with the necessary adjustments. Many individuals function well with their hearing aids, but are uncomfortable advocating for the additional assistance they need to communicate their best. Countless could benefit from additional technologies but are not aware of them.
Does any of this sound familiar to you? It does to me.
I was in denial about my hearing loss for many years, going out of my way to avoid acknowledging it, treating it or anything else. It caused me embarrassment, led to social isolation and difficulties at work, but I continued to shy away from dealing with my hearing loss, until my children inspired me to take action. My hearing loss is genetic, so I may have passed it onto them. I hope my children do not develop hearing problems, but if they do, I needed to set a good example for accepting, treating and advocating for myself, so that they would see a life with hearing loss can be a great one.
Sometimes all it takes is a little inspiration to move you forward on your hearing loss journey. For me, it was my children, but for others it could be as simple as the change of the calendar. The new year is a chance for new beginnings, and this includes for your hearing loss.
Is 2017 the year you make a new beginning with your hearing loss? Here are some suggestions for how to do it.
Get your hearing tested
Don’t waste time wondering whether your hearing is compromised — get the facts by taking a hearing test. If you know that people are talking to you, but have trouble understanding them, this could indicate a hearing loss. Other signs include watching the TV at high volumes and the need to see people’s faces when they talk to you. Getting your hearing tested at a local audiologist is the best option, but online screenings tests are also available.
If you wear hearing aids, it is important to monitor your hearing loss for any signs of change. My hearing loss is progressive, so I take a hearing test at least annually, even though I don’t enjoy it. To keep your hearing aids working their best, the settings should be updated regularly to reflect your current audiogram.
If you notice a sudden drop off in your hearing at any time, this could be a medical emergency. Contact your doctor immediately.
Advocate for yourself
While hearing aids help a lot, asking for other assistance can improve your ability to communicate tremendously. For example, the next time you go out to dinner, include a request for a quiet corner table in your reservation. Be sure to mention that someone in your party wears hearing aids so the restaurant takes the request seriously. I almost always get a positive response.
Remind friends and family to let you choose where you want to sit so you are positioned to hear your best. I prefer to have my back against a wall to block out distracting background noise, but others might be more concerned with the location of the lighting for lip-reading. You know what will help you so be sure to make it happen.
Is 2017 the year you make a new beginning with your hearing loss?
Seek out open captioned theater performances and use caption readers at the movies. You will better enjoy these types of activities and will also help raise awareness about the importance of hearing loss accommodations. Be sure to compliment the venues for having this additional support available.
Embrace technology — old and new
Hearing solutions are no longer one hearing aid fits all situations. Your hearing aids remain your primary lifeline, but using them in conjunction with other assistive devices in difficult listening situations can make a big difference.
There are many types of assistive listening devices that work with hearing aids including FM systems, captioned telephones, TV listening systems, and a variety of smartphone apps. Some work better than others, but each is worth a try to see if it improves things for you. Ask your audiologist what she recommends or research options online. New improvements are being made all the time.
Do your hearing aids have a t-coil? Make sure you find out and if they do, be sure they are activated. With a t-coil, you can tap into hearing loops wherever they are available. This includes theaters, government buildings, places of worship and museums. Hearing loops allow you to connect directly to the sound system, pumping the feed directly into your hearing aid, making it much easier to understand.
The beginning of a new year could be the catalyst you need to start an improved relationship with your hearing loss. Get your hearing tested, start advocating for yourself and embrace new technologies to jumpstart your communication skills, your personal relationships and your life.
Happy New Hearing Year!