Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Can you hear me now?

Last week, Tertia blogged about hearing loss. She took her son for a hearing test and thought he was deaf because he kept reacting when there was no sound—only it turned out that his hearing was perfect and he was reacting appropriately to sounds his mother could no longer hear. As we go through life and our ears are cumulatively battered by years of noise, hearing acuity often declines with age.

A couple of Tertia's commenters admitted to having trouble understanding what people were saying, but blithely expressed their desire to "la la la," remain in denial and avoid even getting their hearing tested by an audiologist. Here's how I responded:

Okay, you people who say you want to be in denial about age-related losses in hearing are seriously pissing me off. First off, don't think of it as age per se, but as accumulated exposure to loud noise that has been killing off the sensory cells in your ears. It happens.

I've been hard of hearing my whole life, and hearing aids do help a lot. If your hair covers your ears, nobody even knows you have them. If your hair doesn't cover your ears, those teeny in-the-canal and in-the-ear hearing aids, flesh-toned, aren't so glaringly obvious. What is glaringly obvious is hearing loss. If you turn the TV up loud, if you misunderstand what people have said and reply inappropriately, if you keep asking people to repeat themselves—believe me, people will notice your hearing loss more than hearing aids. And hearing aids don't bother anyone else, whereas blaring the TV or accusing people of mumbling does bother them. So don't be selfish and vain.

If you know someone who's hard of hearing (even with hearing aids—they help but they don't provide perfect childlike hearing levels), keep these in mind:

1. Speak clearly, with your face towards the person, and don't cover your mouth with your hand, a restaurant menu, etc. Lip-reading cues help.

2. If the person asks you to repeat yourself, don't say the exact same words again. Rephrase it! The different arrangement of sounds may be easier for the hard-of-hearing person to understand correctly.

3. If you want to tell them a secret, speak softly face-on. Whispering straight in their ear means no lip-reading or face-reading cues to help get your point across.

And if you'd like to preserve your hearing, don't blast your iPod or MP3 player. Younger generations will be hard of hearing much earlier in life because of those damn earbuds with the volume too high.


If you have any questions about hearing or hearing loss, feel free to ask. But speak up a little, will ya? Thanks.


Anonymous said...
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DoctorMama said...

"If the person asks you to repeat yourself, don't say the exact same words again" -- oh boy, am I feeling stupid now. That makes so much sense, but I never figured it out. I think I've been repeating myself exactly for years.

My hard of hearing patients thank you.

bitchphd said...

Yeah, the rephrase advice is good, thanks.

Now would you please yell at my husband to get a fucking hearing aid already so that he can stop yelling at *me*? Thanks.

Narya said...

My dad finally got a hearing aid about 20 years ago--because, he said, he kept answering questions other than the one the person asked--and it was wonderful! I could finally have a conversation with him again! He doesn't do as well on the phone (plus he's never been one to chat on the phone, ever), so the 1k miles between us limit our conversations considerably, and the hearing aid, as you say, doesn't make it perfect, but I really felt like I could communicate with him again.

Lisa said...

You are such a concise and considerate educator, Orange!

Which reminds me, I mean, I know you have an awesome editting gig, but why aren't you writing magazine articles?? You're perfect for it.

Orange said...

Why, Lisa, that's the nicest thing anyone's said to me all week!

Marcelle Proust said...

There is another kind of hearing problem that comes with age: cognitive, not physical. In the perfect environment of hearing tests, my hearing is excellent. But in the real world, I have increasing difficulty distinguishing the sounds I want to hear from the background noise. It's very frustrating, but there is no simple solution.

Psycho Kitty said...

Argh! After you get done yelling at Mr. B, will you come yell at my mom?
When she moves in here, I will where her down, oh yes I will. She absolutely refuses, even though she Cannot. Hear. A damned. Thing.