One of the really interesting things we notice as we fit hearing aids on people for the first time is that during their first follow-up appointment, they seem to have more energy than the before they were wearing the aids. It is visible to us, but many of them notice it on their own. When we discuss this great effect of the treating the hearing loss, they always want to know why? What does hearing have to do with energy levels?
Our brains are wired to multi-task. Think about what you do during lunch with colleagues or while listening to a conference call. Chances are that you were able to do something else while listening to the conversation– read the menu, check your email on your phone, or watch the people walking by. A person with normal hearing is able to do those things with relative ease and still follow the conversation.
However, a person with hearing loss interacts in those situations much differently. All of their energy and focus is on following the conversation. Because they are missing certain speech frequencies, they rely more than others on visual cues. For example, did you know that we make 13-15 movements with each sound that we make? If you are relying on lip-reading, that is like trying to read a constant and quick-moving scroll of letters. It requires intense concentration. Add to that the fact that some sounds such as “b”, “m” and “p” look alike, so words like “ball” and “mall” look alike and your brain has to quickly sort out the conversation to make sense.
When people with untreated hearing loss spend a lot of time in conversation with others, we often find that after a while, they just “tune out” because they are exhausted from the effort of trying to hear, see, and understand. This leads to social isolation as they begin to avoid situations that could be stressful for them and often times depression and anxiety.
Obviously the easiest solution is to treat the hearing loss. Recent advances in technology make it ever more affordable and workable to treat most hearing losses. However, there are some things that can be done by those around the person suffering from hearing loss to make things easier on them, from HearingLikeMe.com
- Try to stand 3 to 6 feet from the listener. It’s the sweet spot for hearing aids to pick up sound.
- Hearing aids pick up sound the best from the front, so a listener may tilt or turn their head towards you while you’re speaking.
- Ask which side to sit on in order to ease hearing for them.
- Encourage the listener to choose the best location in a noisy place (usually not the center of the room, but more to the side where background noise is limited).
- Consider this: even people with normal hearing gather 25% of their comprehension from visual cues, such as reading lips, gestures and facial expressions.
- Ask the listener what topic they want to discuss, or tell the listener what you want to talk about. Giving the listener context is a big help, because it makes it easier to follow the details, so they can focus on the meaning of what you’re trying to say.
- Try to stand so you are facing the light from a window or lamp. When a light is shining on the back of your head, your face is backlit and cast in shadow. That makes it more difficult for a listener to read your lips, see facial expressions and follow gestures.
- Speak more slowly and don’t have anything in your mouth, like a piece of gum, when talking.
- Keep your hand away from your mouth when speaking.
- Try to stay in one place when conversing. For a person with hearing loss, it’s tough to hear and comprehend what you’re saying when you’re moving around, for instance crossing from one side of the room to the other.
- Limit the background noises and distractions, such as a television, dishwasher, radio, or vacuum.
- Be patient. The listener may ask you to repeat something you said or to confirm details. Consider writing down specific details for them, like a meeting date or a person’s name, so the listener doesn’t miss any necessary information.
- Even for people with normal hearing, there is a slight delay as the brain processes sound and puts it in context. Give the listener’s brain a moment to process the auditory information it’s received.
If you have further questions about hearing loss (for yourself or a loved one), you can call our office at 801-770-0801.