After writing about the importance of disclosure a couple weeks ago, I have been thinking about an easy acronym to use as a reminder. The ABC’s are easy for anyone. These five strategies for coping with hearing loss will lead to more satisfaction and improve your quality of life.
Look for this international sign that indicates access for the deaf and hard-of-hearing.Years ago, I went to see a burlesque production at a theater in Seattle. When buying my ticket, I asked if their performances were captioned. Of course, they weren’t. This was a long time ago before John Waldo of Wash-CAP, and Cheri Perazzoli* of Loop Seattle began their campaign to make Seattle more accessible for deaf and hard-of-hearing people. So the answer was “no.” I could have gone and been miserable while missing out on most the fun, but I felt bold that day.
I asked if I could have a front row seat, and told them I would be able to read the performer’s lips if I sat in the front row. When they agreed and said that I wouldn’t have to pay more, I was surprised. Additionally, they extended this benefit to one extra friend. When I arrived they also provided me with a transcript of the production! I was stunned. You will often receive a “no” answer when asking for access. But remember—the answer is ALWAYS no if you don’t ask.
Try to be flexible when they say “no.” Think of something else that might work for you and ask for that instead. Often times, I find that if they see me as willing to compromise, they will try to meet me half way. Meanwhile, be sure to support venues that offer access and let them know how pleased you are.
In her last post, Chelle mentioned that we should look for the international sign for deaf technology access. (See the illustration to the left.) There is also an app aimed at helping deaf people find looped access. This is so cool, because you can download it to your phone, which means you can be a little more spontaneous while out with friends. It will help you find a nearby venue that offers looped access.
Buy the best hearing devices and ALD’s you can afford.
Notice I did not say to buy the most expensive. If cheaper aids have the features you need, such as t-coil or noise reduction programs, fine. But be good to yourself and buy what you need, not the smallest or least visible hearing devices. Make access to sound your priority when purchasing hearing aids. Without t-coil, you won’t be able to take advantage of the many venues that are looped for deaf access. You’ll be left out of the loop. Access to sound enables a better quality of life and more satisfaction.
Control your environment.
Whether you need to move to a quieter table in a restaurant, or ask someone to put their barking dog outside when you visit, speak up. Hearing people have a natural filter that allows them to isolate the speech sounds they need to hear. Hearing aids are better at isolating speech than they used to be, but they are far from perfect.
Many people will be unaware of your hearing challenges if you don’t tell them what you need, because they can hear even with the barking dog and clatter of dishes. It hardly bothers them. Moreover, expect to tell them more than once. They will forget. It does get frustrating having to tell people all the time. Look at it another way, and realize you must be compensating so well that they forget. Eventually it will become automatic for them to request a quiet table in the corner, or to put the barking dog in another room when you come over.
Lipreading. If you rely heavily on lip reading, you may have to consider asking to trade seats with others if someone’s head is in front of a setting sun. A setting sun in a window behind someone’s head will put their face in a shadow. Your constant need to look at their lips will cause eye strain with the glaring sun directly in your field of vision. Tell them. Alternatively you could ask them to close the blinds. Another challenge for lip readers is when hearing people want to talk in the dark. It may seem like a no-brainer to you, but it isn’t to others. Tell them you need light in order to see their lips. Whatever you need, maximize communication by taking control of the environment. It isn’t all about what you hear but what you can see as well.
Disclose your hearing loss.
Whenever you have trouble hearing, tell people you’re having difficulties hearing them. Don’t wait for something embarrassing to happen. We all bluff sometimes, but it’s usually better not to. Realize that your compensating behaviors give you away. People notice you are “different.” They just don’t know why. If you tell them you can’t hear and that you lip read, it changes their perspective. Instead of thinking you are weird, harebrained, or inattentive, they will understand that you simply can’t hear that well.
Find out what your audiogram means. Learn about new features on hearing devices. Try ASL if you think it could help. Research Assistive Listening Devices (ALD’s), hearing dogs, and the American Disabilities Act (if you live in the USA). Learn about your rights and if there are state laws that will protect you from discrimination. (If you are not in the US, most other countries have something comparable. Find out what your rights are.) Learn if there are resources that will help you pay for hearing aids, a captioned phone or blinking fire alarms. The SayWhatClub has an excellent resource page called Hearing Loss Resources on the footer of its home page at saywhatclub.org. Talk to others with hearing loss. Doctors are often surprisingly unaware of the resources out there to help you navigate your life with hearing loss. The more informed you are, the better you will be at addressing your needs. These five strategies will go a long way toward improving your quality of life.
*(Correction Note- Cheri Perazzoli’s name was previously spelled incorrectly.)