The Progression of Hearing Loss
The progression of hearing loss in most cases is subtle from a small amount of hearing loss to greater and greater loss. The implications vary depending on the degree of hearing loss.
Borderline / Normal Hearing:
- May have problems in difficult listening situations such as in groups or in noise.
- May need visual cues (to watch the speaker's face and especially lips) to understand some conversations and certain speakers.
- May need to sit close to the speaker to understand the conversation.
Moderate Hearing Loss:
- Having difficulty understanding conversations on the telephone.
- Having difficulty understanding one-on-one conversations.
- People have to speak up for person to understand what is said.
Severe Hearing Loss:
- Impossible to function in difficult listening situations such as in groups or in noise.
- Impossible to understand conversations on the telephone.
- Having difficulty understanding one-on-one conversations.
- People have to speak up for person to understand even part of what is said.
- Needs to sit close to the speaker to understand even part of the conversation.
- Needs visual cues (to watch the speaker's face and especially lips) to understand even part of any conversation and any speaker.
- May have difficulty identifying loud environmental sounds (sirens, telephone ring, car horn, etc.) making safety a concern.
Profound Hearing Loss:
What are the signs of hearing loss?
- Do you feel that people mumble and do not speak clearly?
- Do you understand some people better than others?
- Do you frequently ask people to speak up or repeat themselves?
- Do you have difficulty understanding on the phone?
- Do you find it difficult to follow a conversation in a crowded room or with background noise?
- Do you turn the volume of the television or radio up louder than is comfortable for others?
- Do you find it difficult to hear in public places, such as an auditorium or church?
- Do family and friends comment on your inability to hear?
- Do you ever concentrate to listen so hard that you become fatigued?
- Do you have ringing in your ears?
Studies have linked untreated hearing loss to:
- Irritability, negativism and anger
- Fatigue, tension, stress and depression
- Avoidance or withdrawal from social situations
- Social rejection and loneliness
- Reduced alertness and increased risk to personal safety
- Impaired memory and ability to learn new tasks
- Reduced job performance and earning power
- Diminished psychological and overall health
(Data gathered from Better Hearing Institute)
Why do I need two hearing aids?
Two ears are better than one
Why do we have two ears? Much like having two eyes helps us to see all around us, having two ears helps us locate sound in time and space.
Balanced or binaural hearing is vital to your ability to locate where a sound is coming from. The brain instinctively locates a sound's source by measuring the tiny differences in duration and intensity in the way each ear hears the sound. For example, when you're crossing a street, the sound of an approaching car reaches the closer ear a fraction of a second before the other ear, and at a higher intensity. These differences are translated by the brain, allowing you to internally calculate the sound's direction and distance from you.
Two ears also help you to focus in on desired sounds and ignore sounds you're not interested in hearing. With two inputs, the brain can select a specific sound and concentrate on it. A common example of this is the cocktail party setting, where you may overhear your name and shift your attention to a conversation other than the one you're already involved in. Hearing in stereo also gives a fuller quality to sound.
For all of these reasons, we've evolved with two ears. That's why, for those with a binaural hearing loss, two hearing aids are often recommended.
Why are hearing aids so costly?
Improving your hearing and adding to your quality of life is hard to put a price tag on.
While it might seem odd, it's not really what's inside the piece of plastic that you're paying for - it's how well the hearing aid improves your quality of life. The real value is what it's worth to be able to fully engage in your relationships, work, and the activities you enjoy.
You may also want to think about what you value most in terms of a hearing aid's features and benefits. How important is vanity? How important is the latest technology? The equation of price will depend somewhat on your priorities - and it's different for everyone.
Typically, costs reflect the amount of research and development that has gone into the product, as well as the quality of the components, with the smallest, most technologically advanced aids at the higher end of the pricing spectrum. However, you can also get hearing aids that still provide excellent benefits, while being modestly priced.
Pricing may include services, such as the testing, making of the earmold impression, fitting of the aid, and follow-up care and service. In addition, most hearing aids come with a warranty and return guarantee.
Interacting with Friends with Hearing Loss
Here are some general pointers to consider when talking to someone with a hearing loss
- Wave or touch a person’s shoulder to draw his/her attention. You don’t have to make a big gesture - a small movement of the hand is usually enough. Waving in someone’s face is considered rude.
- Make and keep eye contact with the person – breaking eye contact may indicate the conversation is over.
- If you are in a noisy environment, see if you can move to a quiet spot.
- Ensure that you stand in a well lit area. It is easier for them to read your lips / facial expressions.
- Be patient when either you or the person experiencing hearing loss have difficulty in understanding or getting the message across.
- Rephrase, rather than repeat sentences that the person does not understand.
- Speak clearly so that the person can see and read your lips. Speech reading is made more difficult if you chew gum or something obscures your face and mouth.
- Use your regular tone of voice when having a conversation, unless the person tells you otherwise.
- Use facial expressions to correspond with the topic and mood discussion. A good old pen and paper can also help when either of you have a hard time understanding.
- Use basic signs to support what you are saying, like pointing in a direction or waving goodbye.
- Make sure only one person is speaking at a time.
Communication strategies for those who wear Hearing aids
Knowing what to do is the key to managing your hearing loss.
- Use your hearing aids all day, every day
- Move to a quiet place to talk if at all possible
- Make sure you have good lighting. It will help with speech reading and facial cues
- Try to avoid “other room” syndrome. Make sure the person you are speaking with is in the same room as you are and they are talking and looking at you, not with their back turned
- On the phone, repeat the information back to the speaker to make sure you have it right, especially phone numbers and addresses
- Sit closest to those you wish to speak with
- Ask people to speak slowly and to look at you while speaking
- Ask people to speak to you in a normal tone
- In a restaurant – sit in a booth, not close to the kitchen or windows
- Do not bluff and nod as if you understand something when you don’t. Ask questions, make sure you understand what is being said. Be honest and open about your hearing loss
- Use assistive listening devices if necessary. This may include closed captioning on your television, an amplifier on your phone, signaling devices or a FM or infrared device
- Make the best of the hearing you have and remember to keep your sense of humor