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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Dining Out Toolkit for People with Hearing Loss

Dining out can be a loud and stressful experience. Today’s popular restaurant décor includes hard woods, mirrors and metal, all surfaces that reflect noise rather than absorb it. A lack of carpeting and other sound absorbing surfaces creates a cacophony of sound reverberating around the space. Background music combined with the clacking of cutlery on plates and other patrons’ conversations add to the overwhelming din. Hearing the waiter recite the specials, let alone enjoying quiet conversation with your dinner companions becomes almost impossible. This is true for everyone. Imagine the challenge if you have hearing loss.

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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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Finding the Person in Patient-Centered Care

The best audiologists will provide a road map and set of tools that patients can use to manage their hearing loss successfully. These will not be the same for every person, but must be tailored to each patient’s priorities and communication challenges. I share my hearing loss story and tips in this article published in the November/December Issue of Audiology Today. Reprinted with their permission. 

Living With Hearing Loss | A Hearing Loss Blog

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