Five Things I Wish Everyone Knew About Hearing Loss

It is hard to explain to others what it is like to have hearing loss — the lack of clarity in speech, the sensitivity to loud noise, and the exhaustion that comes with heavy bursts of communication. It is an invisible disability so it is often misunderstood, downplayed or even ignored — sometimes even by those closest to you. But it can have a huge impact on your life, and the lives of those who love you.

Here are the five things I wish everyone understood about hearing loss. Please add your thoughts in the comments.

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1. Hearing loss is exhausting. When you have hearing loss, hearing takes work. This is hard for those with normal hearing to understand since hearing is so automatic for them. The best way I know to explain it is as a game board from Wheel of Fortune. Some of the letters are filled in, others are blank. The contestant (or listener in this case) is trying to make sense of the assorted and incomplete sounds he or she is hearing and turn these sounds into a word or phrase that makes sense in the context of the conversation. Not easy, especially since the conversation does not pause while you are doing this extra processing. Read more about this here.

2. I am not stupid or rude. I might answer questions inappropriately or miss the point of a conversation now and then, but I am not stupid. I just misheard what you said. And if I don’t respond to your greeting or an “excuse me” at the store, it is not because I am ignoring you. I just didn’t hear it.

3. Hearing aids don’t work like glasses. Glasses transform blurry images into something crisp and clear restoring your vision to normal. With hearing aids, this is not the case. Hearing aids amplify sounds, but this only makes them louder, not necessarily crisper or clearer. Hearing aids also have a tough time differentiating among sounds so that background noises like the hum of the refrigerator or the air conditioner are amplified in addition to the more important sounds of conversation. This can actually make it harder to hear in certain situations!

4. I do not need you to speak for me. I am neither a child nor an invalid. If someone asks me a question and I don’t hear it, please repeat it so I can answer for myself. Doing otherwise is insulting and demeaning.

5. A few simple tricks can help a lot. Face me when you speak to me and keep your lips visible. Don’t try to talk to me from another room and be sure to get my attention first before speaking. I want to hear you and am trying my best. Following these rules will let me know that you are too.

Readers, what do you wish people knew about hearing loss?

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183 thoughts on “Five Things I Wish Everyone Knew About Hearing Loss

  1. I would add if I don’t hear you or the person by you, DON”T say she can’t hear anything, You can’t have a conversation with her. It is a lot easier for people to speak a little louder Than it is for hard of hearing folks to hear a little better. We can’t squint our ears.

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    • Oh MJ I so wish they did too. But they can’t by magic. So I’ve taken it upon myself to let people know in many ways(I talk to my family members and friends, I was lucky enough to be able to write a guest blog, I share good articles on Facebook, etc.) and am so thankful for people like Shari to help us all get the word out. With both Facebook and my guest blog I’ve had some long time friends (who’ve known me before and after hearing loss) tell me – “I really never knew. Thank you.”

      It’s hard. But we have to own it and help educate others. Peace my friend 😉

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  2. If I’m in a restaurant, I can usually understand the conversations better if I’m in a booth, because people are situated either right next to me or facing me. I don’t have an extreme hearing loss, so I don’t really have as many problems in quiet situations, but I do hate it when I go to a restaurant with a bunch of other ladies and everybody is talking to people waaaay down the table instead of the people near them and stuff.

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    • That’s interesting because I’d rather NOT sit at a booth. If I sit where my back is resting on the back of the seat, I am likely too far from the speaker across the table to hear best. If that’s the case, then I’m leaning forward and straining to hear, especially if the other person is leaning back against THEIR seat.

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      • That is interesting. I guess it depends on the size of the booth. It is up to all of us to experiment and see what works for us as individuals. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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      • Obviously depends on the individual and the group and the restaurant. What I have found that if in a larger group (8 or above) it’s going to be difficult whatever. These groups tend to be at long tables so I try not to sit at the end but in the middle of one side. That way I have the most chance to see the person’s face and be closer to more people.

        With smaller groups and when going to dinner with my father who is more HOH than I, we try to find a booth. And even better a corner booth and have my father sit in the corner. That way the two side walls shield from restaurant noise and other diners. Again, this is the opportunity to speak up and ask for the seating you would prefer. I find most restaurants are very accommodating unless extremely busy.

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      • Well, when dining with large groups, I like booths better than those really long tables because sitting in a booth basically forces the other people sitting there to talk mostly to the people in that booth, whereas if you sit at one of the long, three-to-five-tables-squished-together places, the other people will tend to try to talk to people who are like three seats down the table, and I’m stuck just kinda sitting there barely talking to anyone. 😛

        Liked by 1 person

      • I think the number of people makes a difference. Even if I sit in the middle of the table –if it’s larger– I’ll likely not be able to hear the most distant people. I’m speaking about a small table for 2-4 people which is better for me.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. This is a great discussion! I have HA’s that allow me to focus on the conversation in front of my face and they block out some of the noise behind me. I used to sit with my back to the wall – now I sit with my back to the room. I just realized I was blocking the bounce of sound that hit the wall and letting in the room noise. Now I block the room noise and the bounce of sound isn’t so bad that I can’t hear my close companions.
    I do think that no matter what – eating out is really hard. I praise restaurants who have sound management in place. When we walk into a restaurant that hits us with a roar of sound – we give our regrets and leave. Our friends have learned to check with us on which restaurants are best when our group has plans.
    I hope everyone is using breathing techniques to manage stress, tension and anxiety in situations like this. Breathe deeply and quickly in – say to a 4 count – then hold for 3 and out slowly – say to a 6 or 8 count. Do it 3 times while smiling and not talking. I believe it makes my experience better and helps me hear more easily.
    Best Year to all!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I hate it when I explain to someone that I am HOH and ask them to repeat themselves and then they continue whispering. Again I have to say “I can’t hear you. Can you please repeat that?” Then they repeat it and are still whispering. I actually had a family member roll their eyes at me at Christmas when I had to repeatedly ask them to “say it again.” That really made me angry and hurt to be treated this way because of my disability, especially by a family member.

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    • I have a couple of tricks I use in these situations. After I’ve stated “Remember, I’m hard of hearing.” and asked the person to speak more slowly or raise their volume and they’ve not listened (lol):
      I say “Could you say that in a different way, please. I’m just not getting it and I know it’s important to you that I understand.”
      Should that fail: I
      look at them utterly blankly and say: “I’m sorry, were you speaking to me? I didn’t hear a thing you said. You know I am Hard of Hearing, right?”
      And last…. particularly with family:
      “Well, I’ve asked you to speak up, restate and to look at me and you’ve not done so. I guess you don’t care that I understand what you’re saying. Excuse me.” and walk away.
      That list goes from least to most assertive.
      I always try to make a group announcement, at the beginning of festivities with family, stating that I’m Hard of Hearing and may not be able to understand under the noise of others words flying around. I position myself for best hearing (facing away from the biggest source of light) and set my HAs on the setting that closes off noise behind me.
      Good luck, Lisa.
      Liz

      Liked by 1 person

    • Eye rolling? That’s a daily thing at my house when I say ” I didn’t hear you”. I get it from both my 16 yr old daughter and my husband. Th y are the ones who are supposed to be most sensitive to my hearing loss, but they are not. My husband tells me if I don’t hear something then I need to say ” I didn’t hear you” instead of trying to guess what was said. But if I don’t pretend to hear, I get the eye roll when I speak up and say I didn’t hear.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. As a RN and a hearing impaired person with HA’s I find that in stressful situations sometimes it is hard to clearly articulate to families what needs to be said for them to understand. Most of the time it isn’t a problem but occasionally it can be. I recently, just this week asked a physician to explain and answer some questions for a family. Later I asked them again to please talk with family and then proceeded to let them know the questions so they could be prepared for the answers. I also reminded him of my hearing impairment and that although I may know “in my brain” what I want to say it doesn’t always come out that way and can be confusing to others. That MD then responded while chuckling that I was wrong that that had “nothing to do with your hearing impairment” proceeded to chuckle while in the presence of other doctors who didn’t know my disability. I have a BSN and have been practicing nursing for 20 years. I was belittled, embarrassed, and humiliated to say the least. I wish that people could understand that concept about speech recognition with hearing impairment and the ability to speak in stressful circumstances. These are all great tips. Thanks for the article. I’m sharing.

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  6. When organising Conferences, I always position a table in the centre middle of the room for anyone who is hard-of-hearing, and request speakers to use the microphone, look to the audience when speaking, ensure their lips are visible (lighting is so important), and to always repeat the audience question before answering it.
    In the past, I have tried asking the audience to always step forward to use the microphone for their questions, and it just doesn’t work – there is always some audience member who says “I’ve got a big voice” and proceeds without. So, if the moderator/speaker always repeats the question into the microphone, it helps in 2 ways – the audience gets to hear and understand, and the speaker gets extra thinking time for answering the question!
    I have ensured the above whilst working with Quota International clubs around the world.

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  7. I wasn’t diagnosed until I was a teenager. By then it was to late. I was dead last in my school. I gave up very early. I thought all teachers sounded like the teacher from Charlie Brown. They said I had A.D.D. Got that wrong. Thank god they didn’t have the drugs back then because they would have had me on them. I spent junior and senior years in rehabs and a halfway house anyway. My childhood was a total humiliation. I developed a very low self esteem and took any escape I could. Good advice but most people never get it.

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  8. I agree with all of these 100%. I am so tired of people saying “Never mind” when I ask if they can repeat what they said. And I feel SO EMBARRASSED whenever I blurt out the wrong answer. For example, someone asked, “What do you think of the day today?” and my answer was just “Yes”, then he looked at me kinda weirdly and I felt my face burn. I mean I heard him but apparently, I heard something differently. I also hate going to school dances because the music is so loud that I can barely hear people.

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  9. as an hearing impaired it not an easy way road ,full of surprises in life but we got to love our self and the rest live it up to God. nobody perfect in this world.
    self love.

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  10. I have health issues and live alone. I have been hard of hearing all of my life but nobody believed me until I was in my 30’s. The dr’s did an xray and gave a me sound test which confirmed what I had been trying to tell people all along. I ended up with hearing aids but they wasn’t helping much. I now have a cochlear which is still not 100%. I hate talking on the phone and making appointments. I try to email them and tell them my situation but they reply back just to tell me to call. It’s so frustrating

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    • Please, please give this a try Beaty! I have this device and it helps so much with making appointments and talking to my sister and friends. It is Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP).
      Please, this is free and available to anyone who has an audiologist!

      1). Go to http://www.captioncall.com
      2. Click the green “Request Phone” button at the top of the page.
      3. Enter the Promo Code CPE428928 and your contact information.
      4. Click “Save”

      If you prefer, you can call CaptionCall Customer Servide at 1-877-557-2227 and give them your information (this wouldn’t work for me – I can’t hear on the phone!).

      All you need to get started is:
      * High Speed Internet Connection.

      Best,
      Liz

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Though I don’t have hearing loss, both of my daughters had profound losses. I have a little idea of what they deal with, in that I have Tinnitus, which masks high frequency sounds. The constant 2000hz whistle I have competes with speech, often requiring me to ask people to repeat and turning up the TV and radio. Background noise makes it worse. Hearing aids do nor help as my hearing is normal, all that is offered is masking it with white noise, which I don’t do. Id love to be able to turn the noise in my head off!

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  12. Hi – the worst thing for me is when I am with a friend, and that friend KNOWS VERY WELL that I have hearing loss, and yet he/she continues to speak softly. AARGH!!! I ask them once to please speak a little louder, which they do, but then they immediately “forget” I guess and go right back to speaking softly. I don’t get it. If I knew my friend or relative was hard of hearing, I would remember that, be mindful, and be conscious of it at all times, speaking louder than I usually would. I guess they just don’t want to expend the energy it takes to speak a little louder. Sigh

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    • I hear you! I get this with my 16 year old daughter- she will speak quickly and barely above a whisper and when I ask her to slow down and say it again louder, she will roll her eyes at me and say “never mind” or ” I’m not repeating myself “. I told her she may be deaf one day!

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      • Hi Tina: Absolutely. The teenagers seem to be the worst when it comes to speaking fast! I love your answer to her, “You may be deaf one day.” I remember making fun of my mom a few years ago (feel HORRIBLE about it now), about different age-related things, and her reply to me was, “You’ll be old one day.” I will never forget this. Makes me feel so bad now. Hopefully your daughter will be able to understand how difficult it is for us and be a bit more sensitive. Take care

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