Hearing aids improve the lives of those with hearing loss but it’s only the beginning. Hearing aids aren’t called hearing miracles for a reason. There’s a variety of other coping strategies which go hand in hand with hearing loss.
A good audiologist is imperative to successful hearing aids. Most people with hearing loss won’t get hearing aids for an average of seven years, that’s seven years of muted life. Sudden volume makes the world sound harsh and can come across as brutal to the senses. This is why so many hearing aids wind up in a drawer somewhere never to see light again. Not all audiologists prepare people for this. The better audiologist will turn down sounds until the person with hearing loss gets used to noise again and then inch up as needed. Building up to sound again requires effort and determination but is well worth the effort, like all good things in life.
With today’s new hearing aid technology, there are hundreds of adjustments that can be made. Beware of the programmer who sets according to the audiogram only, tweaking is necessary and there should be an open invitation to come back as necessary. It’s the hearing aid wearers responsibility to keep track of offending noises and good noises, this helps the audiologist program the aids more personally.
Don’t be afraid to keep shopping for audiologists. It took me four tries to find one I liked here in town. His programming ability is over the top. Since he adjusted my hearing aids, other comment on how much better I hear and I myself am amazed what I’m hearing now. Programming is everything to successful hearing aids. I’m glad I didn’t settle for mediocre.
Support groups also can make a huge difference to those with hearing loss. Meeting others with hearing loss is like finding a personal tribe. People share their stories, their coping strategies and their knowledge of technology. There’s online support groups such as the SayWhatClub (SWC) and there’s face to face, organized meetings through local chapters by The Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) and the Association of Late-Deafened Adults (ALDA). Each of these groups have a yearly convention. It is hard of hearing culture for four glorious days. There’s education and instant friendship. Here, with these groups, a person can become comfortable with their hearing loss.
Some states provide classes for the hard of hearing. Utah has a class called Living With Hearing Loss based off Sam Trychin‘s program. They also offer classes in sign language, speech reading and often hold seminars geared to the hard of hearing. Many people attend meeting other hard of hearing people for the first time. Knowledge is power.
Self advocacy goes hand in hand with support groups. The hard of hearing have a voice and we need to use it. “Please face me when you talk, I hear better when I see you.” It requires showing up early to events to explain the FM system and how it works. It’s telling people how you hear so they better understand.
Some guidelines to advocating:
- Speak up! The hard of hearing are a quiet lot and we feel bad for stating our needs.
- Don’t wait, do it now.
- Prepare in advance, make a plan if needed.
- Be prepared to educate.
- Be nice when educating others, a positive attitude will get you further.
- Seek support when needed.
It takes courage do this. Believe in yourself and tell people what you need. You have just as much right to the world as the person next to you. And if you don’t know what is needed, educate yourself because if you don’t know how can anyone else know? There are lots of good books out there on hearing loss and also support groups will help a lot with this too.
Assistive Listening Devices (ALDs), also called Hearing Assistive Technology are bonus toys for hearing aids. They help with one on one conversations, in cars and in small groups. These include; telephones with volume control and captions, devices to help with the television, personal amplification systems which work with or without hearing aids, FM systems and loop technology. There’s CaptiViews in theaters now and caption glasses, free to use. All these devices help keep the hard of hearing independent.
Some devices are expensive and others not so much but isn’t staying active in the world worth the price? Keeping up with the table conversation with family? Attending that class or group? Going out to eat with friends? There is no shame in using these devices, just as there is no shame in wearing glasses, using a wheelchair or having braces on our teeth. It’s what is. ALDs enable us to continue to socialize and participate in life.
The technology in today’s hearing aids is amazing but I need a combination or all the above to make it work for me. If I didn’t have all those tools available to me, I wouldn’t cope as well as I do in society. Hearing aids alone wouldn’t have kept me asocial as I am. I’m empowered by all the above, not afraid to go out by myself to restaurants, attend workshops and events. I’m equipped to deal with most of I run into therefore keeping myself independent.
For more reading:
On Self Advocacy
On ALDs or HAT
Coping Strategies (states SHHH which is now HLAA)
Harris Communications for ALDs
Books on Hearing Loss
Missing Words by Kay Thomsett & Eve Nickerson
A Quiet World: Living With Hearing Loss by David Meyers
Odyssey of Hearing Loss: Tales of Triumph by Michael Harvey