By Anita Giles, MS, CCC-A
Audiologist, Physicians Hearing Center
Take a moment and think about the smell of coffee, the taste of ice cream, hugging someone, seeing that grandchild reach for you and hearing the words “I love you”. This process happens when the sensations of–smell, taste, touch, vision, and hearing—are gathered and communicated to our brain, making them meaningful to us. Of all these inputs, hearing impacts our relationships and interactions more than any other sense. It is a cognitive task that recognizes, separates, orients, and focuses on sound to make sense of it.
Loss of hearing disrupts the normal relationship between our ears and brain and can affect our connection with people. Over time our ears gradually pick up fewer sounds and less sound detail forcing it to “guess” at what is being said. When the brain receives less information, it is unable to give us a complete hearing experience. This is what is meant by “hearing loss (HL).” Often HL affects only a certain pitch range, which can make speech unclear even when the volume seems loud enough. Don’t neglect this important health concern.
Think about how hearing affects your life. Have you ever felt left out, frustrated, embarrassed, or discouraged when you can’t understand what is said? Are you missing out on conversations? Are your family and friends concerned about your hearing? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, have your hearing evaluated by an audiologist. If hearing loss is discovered, a course of action can be recommended. Fortunately, there are many ways to help people with hearing loss, including hearing devices. Thanks to acoustic science and engineering today’s hearing technology is advanced, discreet and can meet the needs of an active lifestyle. The digital sound processors within hearing devices are designed to provide high sound quality without distortion, reduce unwanted noise, and help you hear conversations. Wearing hearing instruments daily helps connect your brain and ears.
Communication is a two-way connection. It is important to remember that even the best hearing aid technology does not eliminate the need for good communication skills. When speaking to someone with hearing loss, it’s important to implement the following strategies:
• Talk face-to-face.
• Good lighting improves visual cues.
• Limit distance between speakers.
• Try not to talk while chewing or eating.
• Don’t talk while reading, texting, watching TV or with your hand on your cheek.
• Speak at a natural pace and level.
• Take turns talking and don’t interrupt each other.
• Try to reduce background noise.
• Rephrase a sentence instead of repeating the same one if it isn’t understood.
Take a minute to think about what it would mean to you and your family if you could: hear and understand, laugh together, feel part of the conversation, no longer be embarrassed by misunderstanding or asking people to repeat themselves and just be engaged in life again. It’s time to take that next step to better hearing health. Remember it is about relationships, including one with an audiologist to help personalize hearing solutions for you.