Three doctors with hearing loss share their best advice
'It’s important to take time for yourself and remove yourself from all the noise.'
From phone apps to navigating social settings, there are many tools, tips, and tricks, that can make living with hearing loss easier. For their insightful take, we asked three doctors with hearing loss to share their top strategies.
Meet the doctors
Chad Ruffin, MD, is an ear, nose and throat (ENT) surgeon (otolaryngologist) in Burien, Wash. Ruffin was born with severe hearing loss and now works as a cochlear implant surgeon and advocate for adults and children with hearing loss. Ruffin also offers webinars on living well with hearing loss on his blog, chadruffinmd.com.
Michelle Hu, AuD, a pediatric audiologist in San Diego, Calif, was diagnosed with hearing loss as a child and later with bilateral (both ears) sensorineural hearing loss. She now wears cochlear implants and helps others navigate living with hearing loss through her website, mamahuhears.com, and Instagram account, @mama.hu.hears.
Ally Sisler-Dinwiddie, AuD, CCC-A, is a pediatric audiologist and member of the cochlear implant team at Vanderbilt Bill Wilkinson Center’s Department of Hearing and Speech Sciences in Nashville, Tenn. She was born with hearing loss. A car accident later in life accelerated her hearing loss. She now wears cochlear implants and strives to help others live their best lives with hearing loss.
Combatting hearing fatigue
“The impact listening fatigue has on everyday life can be daunting especially when your day is full of lectures, meetings, or if you work in a noisy environment requiring your undivided attention all day/every day,” Dr. Sisler-Dinwiddie says. “It’s important to take time for yourself throughout the day and remove yourself from all the noise and sensory overload.”
To accomplish this, Sisler-Dinwiddie recommends taking a break from the noise and taking out or turning off your hearing aids or cochlear implant sound processors, for 15-20 minutes to relax and give your brain a break.
“In addition, practicing deep breathing, mindfulness, or meditation have been shown to help the body and mind relax and reduce stress levels,” she says. “There are many wonderful free meditation apps that I love and use regularly.”
Utilizing technology to make life easier
“I use the free Innocaption phone app that offers real-time captioning of phone calls,” Hu says. “I also utilize a vibrating alarm clock to wake up and also hook it up to my baby monitor so I can hear my kids if needed when my husband isn’t home.”
Hu says there are many tech additions and assistive listening devices that can help make a home more inclusive for those who are hard of hearing.
“Integrating technology into your home can enhance quality of life without the need for a big project,” Hu says. “I started a thread on my Instagram page with technology that can make your home more inclusive.”
Ruffin says one of his favorite apps is Live Transcribe, a speech-to-text app that uses speech recognition to display words on a smartphone screen, making it easier for those with hearing loss to engage in conversations.
He has also found that using a small wireless remote microphone that connects to his hearing aid allows him to enjoy one-on-one conversations in noisy environments.
A 2022 study confirmed that remote microphones reduce the impact of poor acoustics on speech understanding, improving access and outcomes in noisy environments.
More: Top-rated caption apps
Finding the right hearing device for your individual needs
When someone thinks of hearing loss, they might assume hearing aids are the best solution, but according to Ruffin, those with severe hearing loss may need more.
“For many years, I relied on hearing aids, but as my hearing loss worsened over time, I realized they were no longer enough,” he says. “I was reluctant to get cochlear implants and even waited 11 years after being told I was a candidate.”
Today, Ruffin says getting cochlear implants was one of the best decisions he’s ever made and he says the surgery for cochlear implants is a very safe procedure.
Allowing technology to expand your world
While Sisler-Dinwiddie has always loved movies, she remembers it always seemed complicated or impossible when she was growing up.
“Thankfully there are numerous ways to go about making movies at the cinema more accessible and enjoyable for people with hearing loss,” she says. “Many AMC theatres have added on-screen 'open' captioning to many of their showings aimed at improving the viewing experience for people who have hearing loss and for whom English is not their first language.”
For those who prefer to watch movies in the comfort of their own home, Sisler-Dinwiddie says one of her favorite new technological advances is eyeglasses that offer live captioning. When a user wears the glasses, they see speech captions that can help them to easily follow conversations and better understand.
While the glasses are still in the developmental stage, with several companies working on these smart glasses and offering consumers a waitlist, Sisler-Dinwiddie believes this type of hearing aid technology will continue to advance over the coming years.
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