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Difficult Situations: What to do? How to cope?

by Pat Dobbs

Over the years, I’ve received several requests for help when people with hearing loss are frustrated dealing with difficult situations.

Do any of the following situations sound familiar to you in Difficult situations?

Lunch

1. I go out to lunch with eight friends of more than 30 years quite frequently. I always arrive early so I can get the best table and choice seat and, if necessary, ask to have the music turned down. My friends know I have a hearing loss; it helps if they look at me when they talk and speak one at a time. They are also familiar with my microphone, which transfers their voices directly to my ears when they talk into it. Within a very short time, they seem to forget everything and I’m left out of the conversation, except maybe with the person next to me.

At first I try to follow the conversations, but it becomes mumbo jumbo and I eventually tune out. I go for an extended visit to the ladies room to rest. But really, how many times must I remind them? How long can I keep smiling? Sometimes I just want to scream at the top of my lungs and wonder if I should stop going altogether?

Family

2. It’s family get-together time and I know exactly what that means….trouble hearing. Everyone is talking at the same time, music is blaring, people are laughing….Yes, I can ask them to turn down the music, have conversations with one or two people in a quiet spot, or perhaps use my assistive listening device, but I am still left out of the fun of being with the group and taking part in their conversation. As much as I enjoy the one-on-one conversations, I still miss the group fun and end up feeling sorry for myself.

Appointments

3. I was at the doctor’s office waiting to be called in and, as I sat close to the receptionist, I spoke to her about my hearing loss. Wanting to be discreet, I asked her to get me if I didn’t hear her. As luck would have it, she had to leave the office and a different receptionist took over. She didn’t know my needs and I missed her calling my name. I probably should have written a note explaining that I may not be able to hear them call my name, but it’s impossible to anticipate every situation. My doctor, bless him, does know to look at me when he talks and he has a PocketTalker, which helps immensely.

Assumptions

4. It came to my attention that I’m considered a snob because I don’t respond when people call me. Of course I explained why I haven’t responded, but their assumptions and accusation hurt.

Difficult Situations
It can be hard to cope with hearing loss, but strategies can allow a sufferer to enjoy the life they’ve always lived.

Do any of these strategies work in difficult situations?

All the strategies these people used are excellent, but they don’t always work and we can end up feeling left out. If/when that happens, all the negative stereotypes of hearing loss, like feeling inadequate, less of a “real” person, unintelligent, defective, snobbish, etc., rears their ugly heads.

When those situations happen to me, I admit I often go to a bad place. I allow myself a set amount of time to feel sorry for myself. It may be 5 minutes, an hour or a day. But after that amount of time I have to drop my victim mentality and go to a positive place. The Nine Guiding Principles help with this.

Here are a few things that help me in difficult situations:

  1.  I keep a personal inventory of the things I excel in and give to the world. I know, when you’re feeling low it’s hard to think of anything good about yourself. If necessary, ask a friend to help you create a list of your unique strengths and keep the list with you on your cell phone or in your wallet so it is handy for those times in need.
  2.  I never compare myself to others; that only makes me feel bad. Rather I remind myself I’m a unique individuel with unique talents. As an example, most people hear better than I do. But because I must pay close attention to what people are saying to lip-read, I give them my undivided attention making them feel completely heard. Being completely heard is one of the best gifts we can give.
  3.  I refer to the Nine Guiding Principles of the Hearing Loss Evolution. These principles help me regain my sense of self-worth and self-love as it provides a practical guide for living with hearing loss.
  4.  I often speak to a friend, especially those with hearing loss as they’ve all been in similar situations and understand.
  5. You can seek a professional counselor or go to a religious counselor. Meditation can be helpful, too.

Bottom line:

We must internalize that our hearing loss does not define us negatively. Although it’s a part of who we are, how we live our lives define us, not our hearing loss. It is not easy to change our perspective, but it is an achievable goal, one that is important for us to live a full filled life.

How do you deal with similar difficult situations?

Pat Dobbs is an advocate for people with hearing loss and writes a blog on www.HearingLossEvolution.com. She is proud to be President of the SayWhatClub

GUIDELINES FOR NEW HEARING AIDS

By Chelle Wyatt

 

Hearing aids are expensive and it is a bit overwhelming going in for many first-timers. Not all hearing professionals are created equal and there are some things they don’t tell us. Here are some guidelines written with first-timers in mind, so they can feel a little more confident going in.

The Hearing Test

What’s the difference between a Hearing Instrument Specialist (HIS) and Audiologist (AuD)? Audiologists go to school for 5-7 years at the university level and receive a doctorate in audiology. They are able to give a more complete hearing evaluation. Hearing instrument specialists train for a couple of years, they offer basic hearing tests and sell hearing aids. There are good audiologists and bad audiologist. There are good hearing instrument specialists and bad hearing instrument specialists. No matter which professional you see, you should feel comfortable with them and they should make you feel welcome to come back as often as needed.

What should you expect for a hearing test?

They should make sure you do not have a wax buildup. If you have a buildup, that should be removed before hearing tests.
A discussion about your lifestyle and where you will be using your hearing aids on a day to day basis.
A pure tone test (listening for the beeps) and a word discrimination test.
Other tests may be performed as well. They will find a comfortable, programmed level according to your hearing loss to simulate what hearing aids can do. Keep in mind this will be in a quiet environment and will not reflect many hearing situations you encounter in real life. We will discuss different programming options shortly.

Getting Hearing Aids

What to expect after testing. The hearing loss professional should explain your hearing loss to you. Is it conductive, sensorineural (missing certain frequencies only) or mixed? It the loss mild, moderate, severe or profound? How will the hearing loss affect the sounds of speech for you? Get a copy of your audiogram to keep for future reference.

Hearing Aid Options. The main brands are: Oticon, Phonak, Resound, Siemens, Starkey and Widex. There are a variety of sizes too which range from tiny and inserted into the ear to behind the ear. The bigger the hearing aid, the more programming options available. There are also a variety of colors available for hearing aids and hearing molds. You can get a color to blend with your hair or you can choose a fun color.
*When ordering hearing aids, make sure you have a telecoil in it as well as Bluetooth. Hearing professionals will say it’s old technology but it is useful in a variety of situations (see below).

Programming Options. There are multiple programming options available for hearing aids. Generally 3-5 options are available per hearing aids. Here are some of the options available.
Comfort program, also called noisy setting or restaurant setting. These programs try to cut out background noise by focusing the microphones forward.
Stroll for listening to voices side to side. Also works great in the car.
Telecoils pick up a magnetic sound signal from phones, neckloops (replaces headphones and earbuds) and rooms equipped with hearing loops. It can cut out all surrounding noises (coughing, talking, papers crinkling) and focus only on the sound source.

Bluetooth also reduces surrounding sounds to focus on personal devices; the phone, the computer, the TV.
Music, because we hear music differently than we do speech.
Speech in Wind helps cut back the noise of wind on the microphones.
Tinnitus for those who have a hard time with ringing of the ears in quiet environments. It introduces soothing sounds such as ocean waves or chimes.
Ask about other options.
Some people like multiple options and others like only two programs. It’s up to you.

Bundled pricing and programming.

When getting hearing aids you buy them in a bundled price which includes up to 5 years of programming and minor maintenance. Take advantage of this by going back as often as needed until you are happy with your hearing aids. You are the boss, go back until you are satisfied. Keep a list of noises you don’t like and share it with your hearing professional. He/she will be able to program the hearing aids better with specific information.

You should have 30-90 days to trial hearing aids, ask how long you have to trail the hearing aids. If you aren’t happy with them, try another brand. The different brands may ‘hear’ differently. You may have to pay for different ear molds but you should not have to pay for any portion of the hearing aid. Hearing aid brands seem to be an individual preference; while one person may love one particular brand another may not like them at all.

Hearing aids aren’t called ‘hearing miracles’ for a reason.

They will not replace the normal hearing you lost but they should make a difference. Hearing aids are only good in a 4 to 6 foot range, after that their effectiveness diminish. Though you will voices from other rooms, you still won’t be able to understand everything said. You won’t hear sermons at church or teachers from the back of the room, to work well you need to be within 4-6 feet or use an assistive listening device (ALD). Bad acoustics will also affect hearing aids in a negative way, hard surfaces cause reverberation which confuse hearing aids. Although hearing aids have improved a great deal, they can still be difficult in noisy settings. You may also have a hard time figuring out which direction voices and noise come from.

Assistive listening devices (ALDs) to bridge the distance gap.

People are happier with their hearing aids when paired with assistive listening devices. Many venues, classrooms and meeting places have ALDs available, look for the symbols below. If it has a T in the corner, it means a hearing loop is available and you will not have to pick up a device as long as you have a telecoil in your hearing aid.

 

Most devices come with headphones, however headphones over hearing aids might cause feedback and you may still hear too much surrounding noise. Ask for neckloop instead which is a wire that lays around the neck and plugs into the ALD or any audio source. Personal ALDs may help in cars and large gatherings as well.

All that said, hearing aids should improve your life. Some other things I might add to make your experience even better is…
Be upfront about your hearing loss. There’s no shame in hearing loss anymore than there is someone using a wheelchair. Most people are good and want to help, don’t let a few bad experiences shut you down.
Even with hearing aids you will need people to get your attention before they start talking, this will cut back on repeats.
Even with hearing aids, people will need to face you when talking. This gets the sound to come right at you and believe it or not, you are using some minor lipreading skills, especially if you’ve been losing your hearing awhile.
Number one is up to the hearing aid user, that is your responsibility. Numbers 2 and 3 are both people’s responsibility, the hearing person and the person with hearing loss. Communication goes both ways, if they don’t do their part how on earth will you ever be able to do your part? You will have to remind them often.

To those who have hearing aids already, what other advice would you offer?

Chelle Wyatt works for the Utah Division of Services to the Deaf and Hard of Hearing as a Hard of Hearing Specialist. She’s been a long time member of the SayWhatClub finding her tribe and gaining valuable experience with volunteer work through them.

Don’t be Afraid to Travel with Hearing Loss: How Communication can be Better Overseas

Photo by Agustín Diaz on Unsplash

I have traveled quite a bit over the course of my life. From family vacations – to mission trips – to several years working abroad in Indonesia and Ghana, I have tried to see as much of the globe as I can. I even met my husband in Ghana and got married there. Traveling is in my blood. But as someone with moderate hearing loss, travel can also pose some unique challenges. I always worry that I won’t hear my boarding call when waiting for my flight and end up in the wrong zone or miss my flight altogether (while I have gotten in the wrong group to board, I have yet to miss my flight). Here are some tips for traveling with hearing loss and some ways communication is actually easier overseas!

Don’t Be Afraid To Ask for Help

Gate agents are there to help you. If you worry that you won’t hear your boarding call, explain your situation to the agent. They can make sure you board on time and in your correct group. The same goes for train or boat travel. Even if you are in a non-English speaking country, most people who work in the tourism industry can speak English and are willing and able to help you. If you can’t find an agent, your fellow travelers are usually able to help. When I have traveled by train, there is always someone willing to tell me if I am at the correct stop. Generally, people are friendly and want to assist fellow travelers.

There are Usually Signs Everywhere

The airport always has signs directing you to your gate and letting you know your departure time and gate location. The same is usually true for train stations (but not always, especially in a developing country). But if you can’t find the signs to direct you where you need to go, there are always agents around that can help. Or you can usually find maps and directions in English inside the terminal.

Hand Signals: an Effective Form of Communication

When I lived in Indonesia, I walked everywhere. I would often get a bit lost as I was exploring and have to stop to ask directions from someone who didn’t speak English. I found if I said “Paris Van Java?”, the main mall in Bandung, the city I was in, they could always point me in the right direction. Even general conversations could be had mainly using hand signals. If ASL is your primary language, you can usually get away with writing down a few words and using gestures to explain yourself. On the plus side, many people in non-English speaking countries can write English better than they can speak it. And people are often more willing to have a written conversation overseas than they would in the U.S. Especially in Indonesia, I found there were a lot of people who jumped at the chance to practice their English, whether by writing or speaking. Teach them some signs and you may find a new friend who is willing to show you around and introduce you to new adventures.

Don’t Be Afraid To Ask People to Repeat Themselves

I say “What?” a lot. I’ve found that if I am constantly asking someone to repeat themselves in the U.S., they tend to get annoyed. On the contrary, when I don’t understand someone overseas, they assume it’s because of their accent. They are usually more gracious to repeat themselves multiple times or say something in a different way so you can understand them. They also don’t tend to dismiss you by saying, “Never mind.”

If People Don’t Understand You, They Think it’s Because of Your Accent

Because I can’t hear certain soft speech sounds, I don’t always enunciate my words properly. Or I may not pronounce a word correctly. While some people are understanding, others are not. However, when I am abroad, people just assume it’s because of my accent. I would say ‘American accent’ but I’ve frequently been told that I don’t sound ‘American’. Most people tend to guess that I am German by the way I talk and by the way I look (my heritage is mainly German so that makes sense). But I have never had anyone ask me if I have hearing loss based on my accent (or on the fact that I can’t understand them).

Find the Local Deaf Advocacy Group or Visit A Deaf School

Different countries have different resources for people with hearing loss. If you are in Europe or another wealthy country, the local Deaf advocacy group may have different resources for you as a traveler or be able to recommend places to go and people you can connect to. If you are in a developing country, there are often very few opportunities and resources for those with hearing loss. Oftentimes isolated, a person with hearing loss has little communication with their society and denied educational or work opportunities. By visiting a school or group, you can provide encouragement and connection. And you can advocate for change by your example.

It may seem intimidating to travel when you have hearing loss. But you will usually find that people are willing to help and it is easier to communicate than you initially thought. Don’t be afraid to get out and explore!

About the Author

Jenny Beck is a chiropractor and advocate for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community. She has had moderate hearing loss since a very young age. She is passionate about health, travel, writing and spending time with her family.