What People Living With Hearing Loss Want Others to Know

Last update on Sep, 07, 2021

Among the types of hearing problems, hearing loss is common. More than 5% of the global population has disabling hearing loss, but living with it day-to-day can feel isolating. While individuals with hearing loss often have supportive family and friends who want to relate to them, doing this successfully requires tools that aren’t always obvious. Here, we’ll address common challenges and emotions that may be difficult to articulate. With this knowledge, you’ll be able to better understand and show your support appropriately.

Once someone living with hearing loss starts wearing hearing aids, their life will change for the better. As they adjust to their devices, they might notice subtle shifts in confidence and energy levels. Hearing aids alleviate hearing loss symptoms and introduce a new range of sounds. This can have a profound impact, helping people fully engage in conversation with less difficulty communicating,

Wearing hearing aids on a daily basis is similar to wearing glasses. Before getting your first pair, you don’t necessarily realize you need help hearing or seeing, but the improvement immediately becomes clear after putting your hearing aids on for the first time.

So, what does research show about hearing loss and relationships? According to a pivotal study from University of Gothenburg in Sweden, hearing loss can diminish the quality of social interactions as people age. This is why hearing aids play such an important role. For many, transitioning from life with hearing loss to life with hearing aids is a positive, life-changing event. Many people feel more connected, and may be eager to discuss their hearing situation or hearing aids’ unique technology benefits, like being able to stream music and phone calls directly to the ear with Bluetooth, or rechargeability.  

But for others, this process can be a challenge. Some people may find the subject of hearing loss stressful or difficult, or prefer to keep things private. Each person has a one-of-a-kind relationship with their hearing loss. With this background information in mind, it’s important to be sensitive to different needs.

But for others, this process can be a challenge. Some people may find the subject of hearing loss stressful or difficult, or prefer to keep things private. Each person has a one-of-a-kind relationship with their hearing loss. With this background information in mind, it’s important to be sensitive to different needs.

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Challenging situations for those with hearing loss

For people with hearing loss, certain situations can be stressful in ways that aren’t obvious to others. If you’re wondering how to deal with hearing loss or how to live with someone hard of hearing in a way that works for both you and them, staying informed about the difficult situations that can arise is a great first step.

 

Here are few issues hearing aid wearers experience and ways to help:

 

Noisy environments:

Some places are particularly loud and can cause difficulty communicating for people with hearing loss. These might include concerts, crowded restaurants and big social gatherings. When possible, sit in a secluded area and speak face-to-face for easier conversation.

Hearing aid feedback:

Sometimes hearing aids can make a whistling sound called “feedback” that may also be audible to others nearby; it can happen when they fit too loosely or brush against other surfaces. While hearing aids can be adjusted to fit properly, occasional feedback inevitably happens for hearing aid-wearers from time to time. Unless they ask for assistance, keep in mind that this is normal and just momentary, rather than bringing attention to the sound.

Dead batteries:

While some hearing aid batteries are rechargeable, others need to be replaced on a regular basis. If a battery dies unexpectedly during an activity, it can easily be replaced, but may still feel inconvenient. Before leaving the house, consider carrying extra batteries in case the person with hearing aid needs one, or gently remind them to put a fresh battery in their hearing aid before an important event or outing.

Fatigue:

When adjusting to hearing aids for the first time, taking in so many new sounds can feel exhausting. The length of this period varies for each person. As a supporter, be patient and encourage them to care for themselves with ample rest and time to recharge.

Asking questions and showing support

Because everyone has different experiences and emotions about their hearing loss, it’s important to recognize and respect personal boundaries. The impact of hearing loss on family members is often significant, and hearing aids can create a positive change by improving communication and interpersonal dynamics. But just like other health issues, some people are more comfortable talking about personal things than others, and it often makes sense to leave that up to them.

If the person with hearing loss or hearing aids brings up the topic, carefully listen and gauge their comfort level. You may want to start by asking, “Are you comfortable with me asking questions?” Or, simply follow their lead and ask clarifying questions about what they’re already sharing. Avoid asking others things you wouldn’t be comfortable answering yourself, and in general, keep the focus on the person rather than their hearing loss or hearing aids.

If you’re looking for additional ways to be an advocate, be mindful of someone’s hearing loss without making them feel isolated. For example, if you’re meeting up with a friend who wears hearing aids at a cafe, briefly check in with them about where prefer to sit (perhaps away from a speaker playing music or a large group of people). If you notice them asking “what?” repeatedly or they appear to have trouble following the conversation, consider asking if they’d rather move to a quieter table or another location altogether. Aim to find a balance between making sure they’re comfortable and can hear, while recognizing that they may also prefer to take care of themselves.

Ultimately, the methods of communication used by individuals living with hearing loss are similar to those used by everyone else—speaking slowly and clearly, looking people in the eye, and repeating phrases when asked are all helpful and appreciated. Just like eyeglasses, hearing aids help people experience life to the fullest. Understanding the nuances of hearing loss will allow you to relate to others and support them in a way that fits their needs and preferences.

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