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.
The music was blaring. People were covering their ears. I had turned my hearing aids off but could still feel the bass reverberating through my body. Why did anybody think this would be a good setting for a reunion of board members — most of them in their 50s and 60s? I wasn’t sure, but most people were just trying to survive — shouting to one another to be heard or attempting to move to a quieter spot for discussion. Some danced rather than make any attempt at conversation or just focused on eating in silence.
I was miserable. I couldn’t effectively converse with anyone — lipreading can only take you so far, and I kept worrying if the constant noise was further damaging my hearing — even with my hearing aids turned off and acting as earplugs in my ears. I didn’t want to be anti-social or miss the “fun” but I knew I had to get out of there.
I love my Apple Watch. It not only helps me tell the time, it also keeps me connected to the people that I love by alerting me to texts and calls that I might otherwise miss when I don’t hear my phone. It can remind me of upcoming appointments and to stand up every hour to get some exercise. With the recent launch of WatchOS 6, it has a new trick — protecting my hearing.
The newly launched Noise app measures the environmental sounds around you and alerts you when things get dangerously loud. I often pull up a decibel reader app on my phone to measure noise when the background buzz gets to be too much, but with this app — it happens automatically. It doesn’t record or save the sounds, but it does keep the measurement levels, allowing me to revisit my exposure over the past day or week or month via the Health app on my phone. Pretty cool.
Thanksgiving is a time to join with family and friends to express gratitude for the many joys in our lives. For people with hearing loss, it can also often be fraught with anxiety. Will we be able to follow the dinner conversation and partake in the merriment? Will we be exhausted from all the listening fatigue? Will we remain a relevant and important part of the family dynamic?
My family usually heads out of town for Thanksgiving, but this year we are hosting! Sleeping all eight of us in a Manhattan apartment will make for tight quarters, but I am looking forward to the challenge. I have ceded control of the cooking to my mother-in-law, so my focus will be on setting the table, arranging the seating, and creating the perfect hearing friendly atmosphere — a great role for someone with hearing loss.
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.