When “You Seem To Hear Just Fine” Felt Like an Insult

It was the annual celebration dinner for a community group where I volunteer. People wore their finest attire and mingled in the beautiful space, chatting ahead of the awards dinner. The sound was deafening, but I did my best to hear and partake in a variety of conversations using my surviving a cocktail party with hearing loss tips.

Finding my spot at my assigned table, I introduced myself to my seat mates. Luckily the majority had strong voices in the right decibel range for me to hear; and they were easy to lipread. The conversation flowed, bouncing from topic to topic, before my hearing loss and related advocacy work came up. Yes, I try to slip it into every conversation — that is what advocates do.

Their response: “But, you seem to hear just fine.” Part of me was happy that I was conversing so successfully — those lipreading skills do come in handy — but part of me felt almost slighted. Truth be told, this duck was paddling furiously under the water.

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How To Combat The Stigma of Hearing Loss

Stigma is defined as “a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person.” It often arises from external forces like prejudices, stereotypes or societal norms, but it can also come from inside ourselves — perhaps as we internalize the negative perceptions of others or suffer from a generalized fear of being different from the norm.

Stigma surrounding hearing loss can make us afraid to admit that we have trouble hearing. The shame and embarrassment of stigma drives us to behave in unproductive and unhealthy ways, like neglecting to ask friends and family to use communication best practices or refusing to seek out the professional assistance we need. It may lead us to avoid socializing or prevent us from applying for a deserved promotion. Over time, these behaviors can lead to isolation, depression, and a plethora of health problems.

We must nip hearing loss stigma in the bud. But how?

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Hearing Loss in the Workplace: Strategies for Success

Managing hearing loss in the workplace can be challenging. Hearing loss stigma may make you worried about disclosing your disability, and even if you do, others may not know the communications best practices required to help you hear your best. You may struggle in some work situations, but thrive in others, confusing your co-workers and clients. You company may not be aware of the many new technologies that can make communication easier for people with hearing loss. The good news is that there are many strategies for success, but much education is needed.

So, when Goldman Sachs’ Disability Interest Forum invited me to speak on a panel highlighting hearing health in the workplace at one of their four Disability Awareness Month events, I jumped at the chance! I was thrilled that a leading global firm like Goldman Sachs chose to prioritize hearing health in the workplace in such a public and impactful way.

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A Patient Wish List For the First Audiologist Appointment

An audiologist is the first stop for most people on their hearing loss journey. The tone and content of that initial appointment are critical elements in setting us down the path for success in managing our hearing loss. In my recent post for Phonak Audiology Blog, I share my wish list for that first audiologist appointment. Please share your ideas in the comments. An excerpt is below. To read the full article click here. 

First Audiologist Appointment Can Be Scary

That first audiologist appointment can be an emotional experience for people at the start of their hearing loss journey. Finally admitting that you have a hearing loss and that you need to do something about it can be depressing, shrouded in stigma and downright scary. Combine this with needing to speak on the phone to make the appointment — a dreaded task for many people with hearing loss — and it is no wonder the average person with hearing loss waits 7-10 years to treat it!

Our trepidation continues as we arrive for the first appointment, but there is also hope. We wonder: Will the audiologist focus on the communication challenges that are most important to me? Will I leave with tools and skills that enhance my ability to live my life fully? Will I find a partner in my hearing care? Employ the tips in this article, and your patients will be answering yes to each of these questions.

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Communication Tips For People With Hearing Loss

Audiologists have a unique opportunity to aid patients navigate the challenging world of communicating with hearing loss. In my latest post for Ida Institute, I provide communication best practice tips that audiologists can share with their patients and their patients’ conversation partners. See an excerpt from the piece below. To read the full article click here

Communication Tips For Audiologists To Share With Patients

When I first started losing my hearing, conversations became more difficult. Whether it was at work, or socially with friends, I began to miss small details of the discussion, especially punch lines of jokes. Even when I began wearing hearing aids, these problems persisted, especially in noisy environments. Sometimes I would pretend to hear, other times I would ask for a repeat, but what I never did was ask my conversation partner to use communication best practices, because I didn’t know about them.

Simple things like keeping your mouth uncovered, or making sure to face the person when you are speaking seem obvious to me now, but early on in my hearing loss journey, they were not. When audiologists teach their patients how to have better conversations, with or without the use of hearing devices, they help patients stay connected with the important people in their lives, a primary goal of person-centered cared.

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