There are a number of things you can do to cope with hearing loss better, but it all starts with admitting to yourself that you might have a problem.
“The first thing to do if you suspect you have hearing loss” begins Mandy Nyhof, director of Brindabella Hearing and Speech Centre, “is to get it checked out, because there’s a significant percentage of people who don’t take that first step.”
Mandy is an audiologist with 26 years experience who has talked us through some of the things to think about if you or a family member are affected by hearing loss.
“You need to work on getting comfortable talking about your hearing loss, because if your family and the people around you are not aware of it, they can’t help you with managing it.”
Similarly, some people don’t realise the implications of hearing loss on their affected family members. The person with hearing loss “can feel like no one understands it, and no one helps them.”
For example, “if you speak with your back turned to them, that makes it harder because they have no visual clues to go with it.”
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Mandy also observed that “There’s a fair amount of counselling involved in helping people cope with their hearing loss.”
There are some predictable stages. “These are denial, then perhaps just a little anger, before they eventually move on to acceptance.”
A good audiologist will “help people work through those initial two stages”, not just with the devices they may need to start using.
“It comes back to that bizzare stigma that we spoke about a couple of weeks ago (The Canberra Times, August 29) that only old people have hearing loss.” Denial is powerful but far from helpful in this situation.
“Part of them learning to cope with hearing loss is the acceptance that it’s there 24 hours a day, seven days a week” added Mandy.
“The ones who come to terms with that are the ones who cope better with it.”
That’s an important point, and if you know someone who is having difficulty hearing but hasn’t sought the advice of an audiologist, perhaps you should be encouraging them to do so.
In terms of devices, “The newer technology can make a big difference to their ability to cope with it.”
For instance, “a phone is hard to manage because there’s no visual association. You’re also only using one ear which doesn’t help either.”
Technology such as Bluetooth streaming can help with situations like this.
Once you have a device, you should get periodic checkups as you would any other medical condition.
“Regular adjustment of the hearing device is necessary because hearing usually deteriorates over time, so getting it checked every 12 months is important. Those visits also give us the opportunity to make sure nothing else that can be treated is affecting them.”
Another aspect of coping is planning ahead. “Whereas previously you might have just jumped in the car and gone to dinner at a place with a lot of competing noise all around, now you can’t really do that so easily.”
Mandy says to think about what you do before you put yourself in those situations.
“I say to people, get to know the quieter cafes in your area. For students, sit closer to the front so you can see the lecturer.”
Those who have hearing loss “can’t just use their hearing the way they used to, they have to adjust what they do and where they put themselves in order to communicate in different environments.”