Hearing Loss: When Dinner is a Disaster

Someone at the end of the table was telling a funny story. Someone else jumped in to add a related comment or share an anecdote. Interrupting was the norm. As was covering mouths with hands when speaking. The pace was rapid fire. The background noise was incessant. But nobody seemed to mind. There were smiles and laughter and joy — a celebration of the camaraderie and interconnection of the group as each person enjoyed this special connection with new friends.

Except for me. I was at the other end of the table, too far from the speaker to get in on the action and too overwhelmed with the pace of the overlapping chatter to even try. In the moment, I felt isolated and alone, but strangely, also gratitude. I realized how lucky I am that I spend most of my time in the land of well-trained conversation partners. I vowed to try to remember that feeling the next time my family and friends forgot to talk so I could hear them.

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Can Hearing Less Ever Help You Understand More?

I have always been a conscientious student, so at my recent yoga teacher training, I worked hard to hear every word the teachers said. I arrived early to position myself in a good seat that had clear sight lines for lipreading but also avoided the loud ceiling fan that the mid-day heat often forced us to run. I concentrated, I listened actively, and I took notes to solidify the concepts into my notebook for later review. It was effective, but also exhausting.

When I mentioned how tired I was at dinner one night, my instructor offered a strange suggestion. “I think you should try to hear less,” he told me. “The most important information will be repeated multiple times. Focus on that, not on getting every detail. Hearing everything will only wear you down.”

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How To Survive A Cocktail Party When You Have Hearing Loss

Cocktail parties are a fact of life, but with hearing loss, they are also a challenge. In my latest post for Hearing Tracker, I share my tips for surviving a cocktail party when you have hearing loss. See an excerpt from the piece below. To read the full article click here

Cocktail parties are tough for most people, but when you have hearing loss, they can be brutal! The constant buzz of conversation bounces around the hard surfaces of the room, making it difficult to pick out the important sounds — the voices of your conversation partners. When music is playing in the background, it is even harder. The whole experience can be frustrating, embarrassing, and incredibly exhausting. Many people with hearing loss would prefer to avoid cocktail parties like the plague. But cocktail parties are a fact of life and we must face them head on.

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Surviving A Cocktail Party When You Have Hearing Loss

When approaching a cocktail party, people with hearing loss may opt for easy fixes — dominate the conversation or nod, smile and hope your responses are appropriate. While I admit utilizing these crutches in a pinch, the following list of strategies provides a more authentic and satisfying experience.

1. Arrive rested. Hearing at a cocktail party requires significant concentration and brain power. Arrive rested and having eaten something. An empty stomach makes it harder to concentrate.

2. Find a good position in the room. Upon arrival, scope out the best possible acoustics within the setting and set up shop. A corner location often works well because it limits the background noise behind you. Areas with carpet, drapes or cushions are also good choices since soft surfaces help absorb excess sound.

3. Advocate for yourself. Let people know about your hearing difficulties and ask your speaking partners to move to a quieter part of the room if possible. Or invite them to step outside for a breath of fresh air and respite from the cacophony. If possible, ask the host to turn down the music in at least one part of the party.

For more tips, please continue reading on Hearing Tracker.

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Hearing Loss: When You Feel Like Your Senses Fail You

One of my favorite parts of the annual HLAA Convention is the inspiring speakers. This year was no exception. Rebecca Alexander, a psychotherapist and author, was the keynote. She has Usher syndrome, which means that she is progressively going deaf and blind. Her vision problems presented in childhood, but when she began having trouble hearing in college, she received her diagnosis. Both senses would be taken from her over time. This is a crushing blow, particularly at age 19. The way she has dealt with such a huge loss is inspiring.

It is impossible to imagine the terror of losing two senses simultaneously, but I felt myself in her shoes as she shared her journey of acceptance and empowerment. I could relate to the stories she told about her struggles and the silly and brave things she did along the way. One story particularly resonated with me — the moment she realized she could no longer trust her senses.

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Finding Hearing Loss Friendly Health Care Providers

Going to the doctor can be stressful at any time, but when you have hearing loss it can also be a communication challenge. Mumbling receptionists make it difficult to check-in and hear your name called when the doctor is ready to see you. In the examination room, doctors are often multitasking, taking notes with their back turned at the same time they ask you questions or provide information about your medical condition. This doesn’t work for someone who uses lipreading to augment what he or she hears. Surprisingly, this can sometimes occur at hearing loss related appointments, even those at your audiologist’s office. When you have hearing loss, self-advocacy is required to make sure you get the most out of every doctor appointment.

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