Hear Ye Hear Ye
By John Taylor, member of HEARS
Do you hear OK? If so, you are fortunate. Many people struggling with hearing loss find themselves in frustrating situations like these:
Sitting in a group, unable to figure out what is being discussed. Struggling to understand announcements on the airport or airplane PA system. Wondering what is said on that TV movie (without subtitles). Saying “what?” many times each day. Getting tired out just trying to decipher what is being said.
If some of these “shoes” fit, you can do something. Oakmont has an organization called HEARS (Hearing, Education, Advocacy, Research, Support) dedicated to providing information to residents on hearing problems, solutions, and advanced hearing-related technology. Here are some things they recommend:
Get a hearing test administered by an audiologist or certified hearing aid specialist. This free test is available at local hearing aid providers including Costco, Kaiser, and for veterans, the VA (and the test is painless).
If the test indicates hearing aids will help, get them and give them a try. All hearing aid providers offer a trial period to see if the aids help and allow one to start adjusting to them. It may take multiple visits to make them comfortable and optimally adjusted for the individual. And, wear them all day, every day.
The sounds entering hearing aids are modified to be recognizable by the inner ear, which then sends signals to the brain. Translating those signals into recognition of the sounds/words is a brain function. The brain needs time to learn and adjust to the new signals coming in. At first, hearing the unfamiliar can be very disconcerting.
Significant advances are occurring in hearing aid technology. Current models are vastly improved from what was available just a few years ago. Today’s hearing aids are digital and can be managed with a smart phone, and can stream music, audiobooks and telephone calls directly into the ears.
Untreated, impaired hearing is being identified as a cause of cognitive decline and balance problems, so it behooves anyone with a hearing problem to take action to improve the signals getting to the brain.
If these “shoes” don’t fit you, here’s what you should do to improve an interaction with someone hard of hearing:
Face him/her, speaking directly. Speak at a moderate pace and enunciate clearly. Curb your irritation with his/her non-comprehension!
Speaking directly to someone allows reading of lips and facial expressions and aims the higher pitch sounds to the listener. This is important because the higher pitch sounds carry the consonants of the English language and consonants are key to making out which of similar sounding words is being spoken.
Poor hearing requires the brain to continually guess/interpret what words are being spoken. And with a fast talker, the brain quickly becomes very tired of it all. Then it’s “tune-out time.”
You can find out more about HEARS at oakmontvillage.com/club/oakmont-hears.