If you are living with hearing loss, there are things you can do to communicate better with others. Certain lifestyle changes can improve your ability to hear, says Lisa Hamlin, director of policy for the Hearing Loss Association of America. Here are a few tips that may help.
1. Stand face to face.
By looking at people directly, you can pick up cues from their expressions and the movement of their mouths.
2. Get rid of background noise.
People with hearing loss can have trouble blocking out background noise. Turn off the television or stereo while talking with others. Choose quiet restaurants and meeting places to chat.
3. Ask people to speak clearly.
If you are having trouble hearing someone, ask that person to speak more slowly and clearly. Most people are happy to slow down so that you can understand them.
4. Go with the flow.
Don't interrupt when someone is speaking. The flow of a conversation may help you grasp the meaning of what's being said, even if you don't catch each word.
5. Take advantage of assistive listening devices.
These days, there are many different types of listening devices that can help people with hearing loss. Some are simple, such as telephones with louder volume settings, or headphones that can be connected to your TV. Other developments are more hi-tech.
- Personal frequency modulation (FM) systems allow people to use a microphone that transmits speech to headphones or directly to hearing aids. FM systems are ideal for places like theaters, classrooms, meeting rooms, and churches.
- Inductive loop systems use wires that circle a room to transmit sound. The signal is transmitted to a telecoil, a receiver that is built into a hearing aid or cochlear implant. More and more loop systems are being installed in places like airports, public buildings, churches, and theaters.
- Infrared transmitters send sound to headphones or hearing aids through infrared light from TVs and other devices.
- Computerized speech recognition programs translate voicemail messages into text. Speech recognition is an increasingly popular feature for answering machines, cell phones, and other devices.
- Bluetooth-enabled hearing aids receive digital audio signals from devices such as cell phones, televisions, and computers.
- Captioning displays spoken words as text at the bottom of television screens.
- Alerting devices such as alarm clocks use loud sounds, lights, or vibrations to alert people with hearing loss.
Many assistive listening devices can be purchased on the Internet. Be sure to check the return policy before buying any new device. "Although these devices can work wonders, they don't work for everyone," says Hamlin. "You may need to try one or two before you find something that helps you."
6. Stay engaged and don't go untreated.
"Communicating when you have hearing loss isn't easy," says Anne L. Oyler, associate director of audiology professional practices with the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). "It's tempting to pretend you understand what someone said even when you don't. But that strategy can make you begin to withdraw and become isolated."
Studies show that people with untreated hearing loss are more likely to become depressed and anxious. So make it your goal to hear well enough to stay socially active. "Reaching that goal may take a combination of hearing aids and coping strategies," says Oyler. But most people with hearing loss can improve their ability to comprehend and communicate.