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Living With Severe Hearing Loss

Alerting Devices

Alerting devices use other sensory information to substitute for sound. This may include an alarm clock that vibrates the bed, or lights that blink when the doorbell rings or a smoke alarm goes off. These devices are not meant to take the place of hearing aids or implants, but they can improve independence in people with severe hearing loss.

Captioning

Since 1993, U.S. law has required that all televisions larger than 13 inches have the ability to display closed captions. The trouble, Atcherson says, is that many people don't know their TV can do this. If you're not sure how to turn on captions, check with a techie friend or read the instruction manual.

Captioning at movie theaters is another matter. Some theaters display subtitles during special showings for the hearing impaired. Others offer "rear window captioning" -- a system that displays captions on an adjustable panel at the viewer's seat. But the systems are not yet widespread.

Staying Connected

Hearing clearly over the phone has long been a problem for people with hearing loss. But new technologies are changing that. Bluetooth-enabled smart phones can send signals directly to some types of hearing devices, allowing people to "finally enjoy a phone conversation," Atcherson says. The popularity of text messaging also offers a convenient substitute for people who don't hear well over the phone.

Reading Lips and Body Language

According to Atcherson, lip-reading is not easy to pick up. "However, lip-reading is not the whole picture." It's more helpful for people to learn a holistic approach to communication, which includes reading facial expressions, body language, and other visual cues.

Experts also recommend environmental manipulation strategies. This means taking control of the environment you're in. Find ways to reduce background noise. Situate yourself so you are face-to-face with the speaker. These strategies will enhance the benefits you get from a hearing aid or cochlear implant.

Don't Delay

Learning communication-improvement strategies and using current technologies can reduce frustration, depression, and anxiety, Newman says.

"There have been such great strides in hearing aids, cochlear implants, and assistive technologies over the past few years. If you feel your hearing loss is affecting your life, seek treatment from the doctor and management from the audiologist as soon as possible. The sooner you start using these technologies … the better off you'll be."

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Reviewed on August 16, 2010

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