Living with Hearing Loss

Living with a hearing loss is a constant, never-ending challenge. Learning to live with a hearing loss takes time and it requires effort and persistence. Hearing aids help, but are not a complete cure for hearing loss.

Hearing loss doesn’t just affect you, it affects your family, friends, colleagues at work and just about anyone you communicate with. Hearing allows us to communicate and gives us access to and awareness of our environment. Hearing keeps us connected to our loved ones and to our everyday world.

You don’t have to face hearing loss alone. To receive support and assistance, you can join CHHA and one of its branches/chapters to tap into a full range of information and resources that can help you live your life to its fullest, despite your hearing loss.

  1. Ask the person with hearing loss what you can do to make communication easier and more effective.
  2. Get the person’s attention before beginning to speak. It’s difficult for someone with hearing loss to catch up when tuning in halfway through the first sentence.
  3. Ensure the light is on your face and not behind you.
  4. Speak clearly and at a normal or even slightly slower pace.
  5. Move closer to the person, if necessary.
  6. Facial expressions should match your words, helpful when the listener cannot hear your tone of voice.
  7. Do not shout or over-emphasize your words as this distorts speech and makes speechreading difficult.
  8. Maintain eye contact, minimize head and body movement, don’t cover your mouth with hands or other objects, and refrain from chewing gum and smoking. For some people with hearing loss, moustaches and beards make speechreading more difficult.
  9. Be aware of and eliminate, if possible, sources of background noise that may interfere with good communication (I.e. turn down the music or turn off the TV).
  10. Writing down key phrases and words may be helpful, especially when changing the conversation topic.
  11. Patience and flexibility are important keys to interacting with people with hearing loss, especially those with no usable hearing and who do not use sign language to communicate.
  12. Use technology with readable text such as hand-written notes, computers, e-mail, text messaging, real time captioning in meetings and TTY phones.

Going to a hearing healthcare provider to identify or treat a hearing loss can be and is often a difficult situation. Some individuals may find the situation disorienting and/or may feel out of control due to their inability to comprehend what the hearing healthcare provider is saying.

Before the visit

Make it clear to your companion that they are there to help you understand. They are not there to ask or answer questions on your behalf. Perhaps they could bring pen and paper and write down the hearing healthcare provider’s questions or answers that you have difficulty understanding.

Get ready

Make a list of questions to ask your hearing healthcare provider, such as:

  • What is my diagnosis?
  • What caused the hearing loss?
  • Now that I have hearing loss, is there anything I should/can do to prevent further loss?
  • How do you recommend treating the hearing loss?
  • Will medications be necessary? If so, what are they and are there any side effects?
  • Is surgery possible in the future? What are its implications and possible side effects?
  • What are the risks if I do NOT take the treatment you recommend? Could my hearing get worse?
  • What should I do next to maximize the residual hearing?
  • Will changes in my/our lifestyle be necessary?
  • How often will I/we be required to see you?
  • Whom should I call in your office if I have more questions?
  • Do you have an email address I can use to contact you since I have difficulty on the telephone?
  • Ask your hearing healthcare provider to give or send you a letter and documents informing you of the diagnosis, the type of hearing loss, the cause of the hearing loss, information about any recommended medical procedure, and aural rehabilitation services available in the community.

During the appointment, the hearing healthcare provider must…

  • Provide an assistive listening device available for their patients? (A Pocket Talker is the common device used to help patients in the interview)
  • Make sure he has your attention before he starts speaking
  • Speak directly to you; speak in a moderate rhythm; try not to change the subject suddenly and rephrase if you have not understood
  • Use plain language and not waffle; avoid jargon and unfamiliar abbreviations or acronyms
  • Check that you understand what he is saying; be patient and take the time to communicate properly
  • Keep a pen and paper handy in case he needs to write anything down
  • Augment communication with diagrams and other visual aids

The hearing healthcare provider should…

  • Explain what tests were done in terms you can understand
  • Explain the severity of the hearing loss
  • Explain the diagnosis in terms you can understand
  • Provide you with a written copy of the diagnosis and audiogram
  • Give you an adequate amount of time to answer your questions and concerns
  • Thoroughly explain any possible medical treatment or side effects
  • Refer you to an audiologist or hearing aid dispenser/hearing instrument practitioner for hearing aid selection, fitting, and aural rehabilitation if the hearing loss is severe enough to require amplification.

REMEMBER

It’s your hearing loss, your diagnosis and your doctor. It’s easy to give up control and very hard to take it back once the conversation has gone on for some length.