Some friends know all the good restaurants in town. Others know everything about the local sports teams. Some can even score you two tickets to the hottest new show. None of these is me. Instead, I am the friend with hearing aids.
If someone has trouble with his hearing or is having difficulty convincing a family member to give hearing aids a try, I am their first call. This is fine with me. In fact, I welcome it. I am proud to provide information and support to people starting on their hearing loss journey. I wasn’t so lucky.
It seems to be happening more and more. Maybe that is because I am aging, and with that, so are my friends, the parents of my children’s friends, my service providers and seemingly almost everyone else around me. Since my hearing loss is genetic — I first noticed it in my mid-20s — I have a significant head start in figuring out communication best practices and self-advocacy tricks. I am happy to share this knowledge with others.
How do people find me?
Some of it is word of mouth. Since I came out of my hearing loss closet, I am no longer shy about sharing my hearing issues. Often it comes up in conversation if I am talking about my board work for Hearing Loss Association of America or my other advocacy initiatives. Other times, people learn of my hearing loss from the footer of my emails where I list my social media links including this blog.
What do they want to know?
I talk to people at all points on their hearing loss journey. Some have suffered sudden hearing loss while others are just starting to notice that their hearing is gradually failing. Others have been struggling for some time, but are now considering making the leap to hearing aids. Many simply want to talk to someone who can understand what they are experiencing and feeling.
They share their story, I share mine and we commiserate about the challenges of living with hearing loss. I listen and sympathize, but I always provide encouragement. Living with hearing loss is challenging, but the more steps you take to treat your hearing loss and advocate for yourself, the better off your life will be.
Many people ask me about my hearing aids. They want to know which type I wear and if they should get the same. I always share the pros and cons of my particular style, but suggest they see what works best for their particular loss, communication needs and lifestyle. In today’s world, that usually means visiting an audiologist.
What do I tell them?
Our talks vary depending on their questions and areas of concern, but I always try to get in the following advice and information.
1. Take a hearing test right away.
It is always better to start with facts and a hearing test will provide them. At a minimum, it provides a baseline for future changes in their hearing should they occur. In many cases this will involve a visit to an audiologist, but there are now high quality tests on line that can also work, including The National Hearing Test.
2. Use communication best practices.
Tips like always positioning yourself to have a good visual of the speaker to help with understanding are obvious to those of us who have been living with hearing loss, but are not automatic for people who are new to it and to their friends and families. It is up to the person with hearing loss to share these tips with their communication partners.
3. Take a hearing aid for a test drive.
Depending on the results of the hearing test, it might make sense to try out a hearing aid. Since all reputable dispensers will let you try out a hearing device for 30 days, there is very limited risk to giving one a try. As new over-the-counter hearing aid options become available, trying out a device or two will likely become even easier for people with mild to moderate hearing loss.
4. Use hearing assistive technologies.
I am always surprised when people tell me they have yet to turn on the closed captioning feature on their TV. This is a must! They might also try using caption readers at the movies or hearing assistive devices at the theater. Once you enjoy the benefits of this assistance, you will never go back.
5. Understand the risks of untreated hearing loss.
I don’t like to frighten people — they usually are scared enough already — but I do talk about the medical risks of not treating their hearing loss. Studies show that untreated hearing loss is associated with higher incidences of depression, of falling and even developing dementia. Not good. For more hearing loss facts click here.
Readers, are you the friend with hearing aids?