Unfortunately, hearing loss is common as we get older. It can occur at any age and takes time to adjust to, especially for people who may never have expected it happening to them. The effects can be alarming: You may miss parts of conversations with friends and family, directions at work, or important details when interacting with people in environments such as public transit, the bank, or a restaurant.
Here are some ways to help adjust when you sense you are experiencing hearing loss.
Find the Right Audiologist
The most essential step in coping with hearing loss is connecting with an experienced audiologist in your area. They are trained to help people in all stages of hearing loss and will know what to do now to prevent, or at least mitigate, your hearing from deteriorating even further.
You’ll need to find someone who you feel comfortable sharing what you are experiencing. It’s not a simple matter of having your hearing checked and getting an audiogram. Find someone who has an established reputation and you sense understands your immediate needs — And what you may need in the future.
Explore Your Tech Options
Getting hearing aids that are in your budget and appropriate for you is important, but keep in mind additional hearing technology options are available to enhance the function of your hearing aids.
For example, wireless streamers work in tandem with Bluetooth-enabled devices, such as your smartphone, digital television, or virtual assistant devices Amazon Alexa. Streamers are worn, sometimes around the neck, and “stream” sounds through your hearing aid directly into your ears, and some hearing aids even work with bluetooth devices without the need for a streamer.
Microphones are also available for your companions to wear, or to place on a table, which will direct what people say into your hearing aids and right into your ears.
Products like microphones can be adjusted to tune out background noise so all you hear is the clear sound of the person’s voice you are with or, for example, the television or stereo.
Your audiologist can recommend the right products for you, and also fine-tune them as time goes by so you get the best hearing quality through the years.
Don’t Be Ashamed
One of the toughest coping mechanisms when dealing with hearing loss is adjusting the way you interact with people. But there are things you can do to make it easier.
Instead of calling customer service lines, see if there is an option for online instant message chats. You can also use services that may be available on your cell phone that will transcribe voicemail messages into words you can read, or have them sent to your email inbox.
Whenever you interact with people, be upfront with your hearing loss. Announce you have difficulty hearing. Ask them to repeat themselves, if needed. If you think you missed a word, ask them to spell it out. If they put their hand in front of their face, explain to them that this inhibits your ability to read their lips. If they talk too fast, find an opportunity to ask them to slow down.
It may take a couple of requests, and you might be forced to interrupt occasionally, but most people will do what they need to do so you can hear them.
Wear Your Hearing Aids
Though it may be tempting to remove your hearing aids when you are alone to give yourself a break, resist the urge. Wearing your hearing aids all or most of the time that you are awake will give your brain an opportunity to adjust and normalize. Wearing your hearing aids for most of your waking hours is especially important during the first three months of use.
Hearing loss can be a painful reality, but it affects younger people too. Don’t let it ruin your ability to communicate. Be patient while you get used to new hearing aids. For the first few months, a running faucet might sound more like Niagara Falls.
Eventually, you will get used to them. Look for quiet restaurants and meeting places to interact with friends and family. If you dine out, try to go before or after the dinner rush when there is not as much noise
Above all, be patient, as it will take time to adjust. Not only are you adjusting, but the people around you are adjusting as well. Understand you are both working together to make your surroundings comfortable. Soon, with practice, your new world will become far more comfortable.
Losing your hearing can be stressful. But coping mechanisms can help ease the transition to better sound clarity. Understanding and accepting that your hearing loss is real will help you then take steps on how to improve your hearing. That will require researching the right support team, such as an audiologist, who can work with you to explore hearing aid and technology options, as well as finding the patience and inner strength to adjust to making your new normal a comfortable normal.
About the Author:
Dr. Pauline Dinnauer, AuD is the VP of Audiological Care at Connect Hearing, which provides industry-leading hearing loss, hearing testing and hearing aid consultation across the US.