CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW? : A Person-centered Story, by Kathie Nitz

Actually, not as well as I once did!  A few years ago I suffered sudden hearing loss in one ear.  It has made high frequencies difficult for me to hear in that ear.  Fortunately, I didn’t lose all my hearing, however it has changed my life forever.

I recently found this excellent NPR link that provides audio clips to help others better understand the problem.

One of the most interesting things I’ve personally discovered is that I process everything I’m hearing more slowly.  It’s because I’m always catching up to what’s already been said.  The best way I can describe it is when you’re reading a book and someone begins talking to you at the same time.  Your brain can’t process both well.  Until you decide to focus on one or the other, there are two things going on at once and it’s difficult to concentrate.  When you finally turn your focus to one your attention to the other typically suffers.

Although I am grateful for the high end digital hearing aid I purchased, it is an imperfect solution.  Even while wearing it, I find separating out sounds difficult in certain situations and impacts how I interact with others.  For instance, I now find being in a crowd more challenging so I tend to be more quiet than I used to be in order to better track conversations.

Even though I’m young and resilient, moving through my day takes more focus which sometimes wears me down.  At times, I find myself being a bit impatient with idle chatter since it takes just as much effort for me to listen and process it … then realize it was just a random musing rather than something requiring a response from me.

All this has made me very aware of what it must be like to be a senior with hearing loss.  How many times have you heard adult children and spouses (or maybe yourself?) berating someone for not having or wearing a hearing aid?

Rather than lecturing, rolling your eyes or throwing your hands up in frustration … get curious not furious!  Here are some tips:

• Ask your loved one to explain what their hearing loss is like and how it affects their day-to-day life so you can better understand their unique situation.

• Encourage your loved one to try out a hearing aid yet honor their perspective and be patient with their reluctance if it should arise.

• If they have a hearing aid and don’t wear it because it “doesn’t help,” suggest they have it adjusted.  It took me several visits before the tweaks got it to where the sound was the most natural for me.  Elders may not want to impose and give up before they reach that point.

• Slow down and enunciate.

• Don’t talk from another room.  Wait until you’re close or better yet face to face before you speak.

• Make your words count if possible.  Understand the effort that goes into deciphering every word that’s being said.

• Be grateful that you (hopefully) have good hearing and take good care of your ears!




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