Your COVID-19 Hearing Loss Survival Guide

How quickly things change. A few weeks ago I was speaking at a Phonak awards dinner for its top Lyric providers about ways to enhance the provider/patient relationship, planning for two upcoming talks on patient-centered care at the American Academy of Audiology (AAA) 2020 convention, enjoying dinners out, gathering with friends, sending my children to school and practicing yoga at my local studio.

Today, everything is different. My children’s school is closed, the AAA conference is cancelled, and my family and I are hibernating at home in hopes of protecting ourselves and others from the COVID-19 virus. By the time this post is published, other restrictions may be in place. We are all feeling the stress of rapid change, the uncertainty of the unknown, and the disconnectedness that comes from sheltering in place.

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How To Explain Hearing Loss to the Uninitiated

Hearing loss is difficult to understand if you have never experienced it. Part of it is obvious — we don’t hear things well — but other parts are confusing. Why do we hear well in one situation but not in another? Why are we sensitive to loud sounds? Why can we hear some people easily, but not others. Why must communication partners face us when speaking? Do we all know sign language? The questions are endless, as are the ways we try to explain our experience to the uninitiated.

Below I share some ways I have found to be effective in illuminating the mystery of hearing loss to the hearing community. Please share your suggestions in the comments.

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Does Hearing Loss Cause Us to Misread Emotions?

“Are you actually angry or are you kidding?” I asked my husband recently. His posture and facial expression read angry, but it was not the type of situation that called for this emotion. I was confused. It turned out he was joking, but I was missing the subtle cues in his voice. This has been known to happen with my children as well, and close friends, and when I thought about it, probably with other people too — maybe even perfect strangers. Was this somehow related to my hearing loss?

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The Key To Success With Hearing Loss — Whatever Works!

Regular readers of this blog know I am almost as passionate about yoga as I am about hearing loss advocacy. Yoga and meditation keep my body and mind strong and help me handle the daily frustrations of living with hearing loss. Often, the techniques I explore in my yoga and meditation practices can be directly applied to managing my hearing loss. My experience at a recent meditation seminar was no different.

The seminar entitled “Staying Sane in a Crazy World” featured Joseph Goldstein, a renowned meditation teacher, and Dan Harris, an ABC anchorman and author of the New York Times bestseller “10% Happier.” The talk was sponsored by New York Insight Meditation Center and it was packed! I had not expected a meditation lecture to be such a popular way to spend a cold winter’s evening during the holiday season, but I was pleased to see all the interest.

What I had expected was a lot of details on the specifics of meditation — the best way to sit, what to do with your hands, the perfect place to meditate, how to choose guided or silent, etc., but I was once again surprised. The main takeaway — do whatever works for you. It reminded me a lot of living with hearing loss.

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Hearing Loss: Please Turn Down the Rain

It was pouring! Despite the coverage from our umbrellas, we reached the car soaked. Luckily it was a warm summer day so we were not too cold. We slammed the doors shut and sat in the car recovering. The rain clattered on the roof, banged on the windows, smashing all around us. The sound was deafening. Difficult driving conditions for anyone, but when you have hearing loss, the added battle with the noise can be exhausting. How was I to drive home safely with all this racket?

I considered turning my hearing aids off, but I don’t usually do this while driving, in hopes that my hearing aids will help me pick up ambient noise or at a minimum, a siren from an approaching emergency vehicle. I kept my hearing aids on, plugged my home address into the GPS and headed onto the road. Luckily, it was slow going as the deepening puddles made navigating a challenge for everyone.

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