Hearing Loss is no laughing matter: People know that I am hard of hearing because I tell them.
Inevitably I get the same responses; “Oh I am sorry,” or their witty ”Whaaaat?”
People do not need to be sorry for my hearing loss or their lack of awareness of it; it is invisible until you see my bright white cochlear implant.
Also hearing loss is no laughing matter. It affects a large number of Canadians.
Demographically, seniors are one of the fastest growing segments of society. More than half of Canadians over the age of 65 will experience some degree of hearing loss. However, many people are now showing signs of hearing loss in their 30s and 40s (Hearing Foundation, http://www.thfc.ca).
Hearing loss is often trivialized and stereotyped as affecting only very old people. The number of people affected by hearing loss is increasing and the impacts on society, health care and economy are great.
Hearing loss is caused by a multitude of factors including genetics, illnesses, and drugs but more than 25 per cent of hearing loss can be attributed to aging, a condition called presbycusis and a rapidly growing percentage of adult hearing loss is caused by noise damage.
While we can’t stop growing older, we can reduce our risk of noise-induced hearing loss. Attending a Rockets game or venue with loud music for 2+ hours, mowing a large lawn without ear protection or listening to loud music through headphone can leave a person with temporary ringing in the ears, which may have a long term effect.
For those with a hearing loss, social interactions can be stressful: Poor lighting, background noise, surrounding voices, flooring, room acoustics, and the position of friends are all factors which influence how well we hear.
The emotional strains too impact how we deal with it. We don’t want people to feel we are “old” so we deny or minimize it. This affects our ability to adjust to and cope effectively. People with hearing loss may feel isolated and lonely even when in the presence of others.The longer the wait to purchase hearing aids or assistive listening devices, the harder it is to adapt to them.
Hearing loss is nothing to be ashamed of or laughed at except at some really good bloopers. Believe me, I’ve had some doozies. We buy glasses because we are losing our vision; likewise we need to buy hearing aids for hearing loss. However, while glasses restore our vision hearing aids do not restore our hearing; they are ‘aids’ to hearing. We still rely on communication strategies to fill in the gaps. Such strategies include:
• Self-identification: Let people know you have difficulty hearing; I prefer people to know than to think I am not too “with it”.
• Tell people what you need: Speak louder or slow down, to look at you so you can see their faces and lips, and if all else fails, write it down. Do Not Bluff.
• Reduce background noise: Ask if music can be turned down or move to a quieter spot.
• Talk to an audiologist or connect with the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association www.chha.ca for more information about coping and communicating with hearing loss.
• Take speechreading/lipreading classes.
May is Hearing Awareness Month so please be aware and protect your hearing.
Leslee Scott, BA BSW, MEd, is a hard of hearing counselor who works with deaf and hard of hearing people with speech reading classes, LACE (Listening and Communication Enhancement) training, workshops and other rehabilitative services. email@example.com