A Few Hearing Loss Strategies for Seniors

It’s likely someone you know – a partner, parent, colleague or friend – has experienced hearing loss. In fact, by 2020, more than 44 million U.S. adults ages 20 and older will have “clinically meaningful” hearing loss – and that’s expected to nearly double by 2060, according to new findings published Thursday in JAMA Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery. The aging U.S. population is largely responsible for the projected increase, note the authors, who expect a significant rise in moderate to severe hearing loss coupled with a growing need for affordable treatments and access to hearing specialists.

While the devices available today are better than ever at improving the listening abilities of users, they are no substitute for the human factor. That does not mean that one should not opt for them. it could be necessary to book a hearing test with a specialized doctor who can prescribe an appropriate hearing aid for you. Additionally, by enhancing your communication strategies, you can promote better understanding, ease conversation frustrations and help someone with hearing, whether that be directly with Costco hearing aids or via any other methods.

Communication Strategies
Diagnosed as deaf at 6 months, Ann Rancourt is used to advocating for herself and educating others. In an email interview, she writes, “I tell people who aren’t familiar with hearing loss how to best communicate with me.”

Rancourt, the national Walk4Hearing coordinator at Hearing Loss Association of America, explains, “I usually tell others to face me when they speak, speak clearly and normally by not shouting or covering their mouth due to [my] heavy reliance on lip reading. I am not hesitant to ask others to repeat or rephrase what was not understood and/or to speak more clearly.”

She wears a hearing aid and a cochlear implant – a small, surgically implanted electronic device that directly stimulates the auditory nerve and signals the brain, allowing users to recognize sounds in the environment. Like any hearing device, it’s a useful tool but not a panacea.

“Soft speakers typically need to be asked to speak up so I can hear,” Rancourt notes. And because she communicates through a combination of lip reading and the sound of the other person’s voice, it’s important to keep background noise to a minimum.

Empathy and Patience
“So many times, the communication partner has no idea how much this person has to work,” says Gail Whitelaw, an audiologist and director of the Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic at The Ohio State University. Understanding and patience are important.

People make common missteps when they aren’t being understood by someone with hearing loss, like repeating the exact same words, only louder. “A lot of people think if you yell at someone with a hearing loss, they do better,” Whitelaw says. “And they don’t. They actually do better if you rephrase it.”

Restating and rewording is a good communication strategy, agrees Jason Wigand, an audiologist, assistant professor and clinical director of the cochlear implant program at the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina in Columbia. So simply repeating,”What time are we going to the store?” while elevating your voice may not help the person with hearing loss. Instead, trying, “When are we going to go to Kroger?” or “When are we going grocery shopping?” provides an additional cue.

“With hearing-impaired people, it’s a huge thing to rely on context,” Wigand says. “They get what you’re talking about and your line of conversation.” So don’t abruptly change the subject without warning.

If you’ve ever struggled to have a conversation in a noisy restaurant, imagine what it’s like for someone with hearing loss. Communication strategies help everyone, Wigand says. “Position yourself so noise is behind rather than coming from the same direction as speech you’re interested in and listening to,” he says. “Make sure that you’re facing the listener. Make sure that you have good lighting.”

Dimly lit rooms pose a disadvantage, Wigand says: “Information conveyed via visual cues and facial cues can help a hearing-impaired individual in a noisy situation, while they’re trying to read lips and read your expressions to help them communicate better.”

At Work and Home
If an employee or co-worker has hearing issues, you can help. For instance, find a quieter office space for important conversations, Wigand says, and make sure to follow up with an email recap.

In general, avoid making assumptions about what co-workers can or cannot hear in the work environment, Whitelaw cautions. If you’re approaching a co-worker who is learning to cope with hearing loss, try asking: “So, what helps you?” or “What can I do to help with communication?” she advises. If you’re approaching an employee, consider language like: “Tell me about the accommodations that work for you.”

For family members, Whitelaw says, “Having a good, open line of communication starts right when a person is diagnosed.” Or sooner. “Every day you miss out on hearing, you’re missing information,” she says. “Having someone tactfully say, ‘Hey, you might be missing out on some stuff. Why don’t you go see an audiologist for a hearing evaluation?'” can nudge loved ones to get the help they need and spare frustration within the family.

Technology Boost
Even with training and practice, people with hearing devices still need professional guidance to use the technologies most effectively, as well as help in developing communication strategies, Whitelaw says. “Hearing aids aren’t perfect,” she points out. However, hearing technologies available today are “phenomenal,” she adds, with better sound delivery and the ability to eliminate background noise.

Streaming capabilities represent a big advance, Wigand says. “Most major hearing-aid manufacturers have made-for-iPhone or made-for-smartphone hearing aids,” he says, “where the sound, the call, the music – whatever audio – streams from the phone or from any Bluetooth-enabled device directly to the hearing aids.” The technology is similar to frequency modulation systems – consisting of a microphone for the speaker and receiver for the listener – used in group settings, including classrooms.

[See: 7 Ways Technology Can Torpedo Your Health.]

Rancourt makes use of a variety of devices, including strobe lights attached to fire and smoke detectors to compensate for the high-pitched sounds she can’t hear. “I encourage individuals with hearing loss to look into the various technologies that help to improve quality of life – and most importantly, improve their access to communication,” she says.

To help listeners with hearing loss, Rancourt shares communication tips from HLAA, summarized below, which could apply to a group presentation or an audience of one:
Emphasize the visual when audio is poor.

Get the listener’s attention first. Face the audience directly. Spotlight your face without backlighting. Avoid noisy backgrounds and ask what you can do to facilitate communication.
When communicating: Do not shout, but speak clearly at a moderate pace. Don’t cover your mouth, chew gum or food, or smoke while talking. Use gestures and facial expressions.
Establish empathy. If the response seems slow, be patient. Remain positive and relaxed. Talk to – not about – the person.
Communication is a two-way street, and the association also has tips for people with hearing loss:

Set the stage by telling others how to best talk to you and pick your best spot in terms of lighting, quiet and proximity.
Anticipate difficult situations and plan how to minimize them.
Pay attention to and concentrate on the speaker, without interrupting.
Look for visual cues and ask for written cues if needed.
Give the speaker feedback on how he or she is doing.
Don’t bluff. Do admit when you don’t understand.

This information came from: http://health.usnews.com/wellness/articles/2017-03-03/how-to-help-a-loved-one-with-hearing-loss by Lisa Esposito.