Tips for Better Hearing
Our goal is to improve your communication. Communication is the way we interact with others and the world around us. We receive, process and send information to exchange thoughts, feelings, ideas, needs and wants. We communicate in many ways – touch, visually with gestures and expressions, reading and writing, speech and hearing. Speaking and hearing is the most common method of communication and usually the most effective.
Language is the system and rules we use to assess and express communication information. Many of these tips for hearing are taken from LACE – language and communication enhancement, which is a computer-based program designed to help you develop better listening habits. There are 20 thirty minute sessions comprised listening to speech in background noise, listening to rapid speech and more. This tool is suggested for anyone struggling to hear in various environments and strongly recommended to anyone utilizing a hearing aid for hearing impairment. LACE is free to anyone purchasing hearing aids through our office.
Have your hearing tested by a professional to identify any hearing impairment with proper follow up. If you’re struggling to hear in various situations, have your hearing tested yearly.
Purchase a hearing aid appropriate for your needs and financial ability. Hearing aids are the best tool in addressing symptoms associated with hearing loss – communication problems, social withdrawal and even depression. Make sure that your hearing aids are tuned to your hearing loss. This should be done at least once a year.
Enroll in LACE – language and communication enhancement program. Aural rehabilitation with this tool incorporates exercises in listening to speech in noise, competing speech, rapid speech and auditory memory.
Ask your hearing care professional about Assistive Listening Devices (ALDs) which provide amplification for a specific need. Purchase of an ALD may be an important supplement to a hearing aid.
Some devices provide extra amplification for specific listening situations – telephone amplifiers, Bluetooth and neck-loop systems for cell phone, FM systems in the automobile and other noisy environments, television loops and infrared systems.
Some ALD devices offer visual and/or vibrotactile information to communicate with the hearing impaired. A TDD or TTY telephone service enables written communication over the telephone. There are also flashing and/or vibrating alarms for various situations.
In the automobile:
Consider purchasing an ALD to help in this difficult environment.
Minimize the noise around you as much as possible. Close the car window when trying to listen to a speaker or music in the car. Turn off the music when trying to listen to a speaker.
Insure that you sit with your good ear to the speaker, not the window.
Turn your aid nearest the car window down in volume.
At home and work:
Control the environment – unique to home and work situations, you have the ability to control much of your listening environment!
Consider purchasing an ALD to help you hear family members around the house or other vital information (TV, telephone, etc).
Minimize the noise around you as much as possible. Turn off background noise or TV as you communicate with others. Retreat to a quite area (perhaps away from the kitchen if someone is cooking) to converse with another.
Maximize lighting to visualize the speakers face.
Rearrange your furniture to maximize lighting and reduce background noise. Position your seat away from road noise or blowing fans/AC or heating ducts.
Add sound absorption material to your rooms like carpet and drapes and even acoustic tile to reduce echoes and other environmental noise.
Control the speaker – again, you usually have the ability to better advise and control speakers (close friends and family) in your environment at home and at work (colleagues).
Ask those who wish to speak to you to do so face to face. It’s unfair to expect someone who is hearing impaired to listen to someone from the next room or when they’re walking away.
Ask those who wish to speak to you to get your attention first so that you can watch their face as they communicate. This can be done by calling your name, by a gesture or a gentle touch on the arm. The first couple of sentences during communication are the most important as they relate the topic and context, so it’s vital that you are able to visualize the speaker to help you hear them well.
Out in public:
Insure that your hearing aids are set to the appropriate setting.
Consider using an ALD especially when communicating with one person in a noisy setting or in meetings and lectures. An FM system can greatly enhance your ability to understand the speaker.
Minimize noise in the environment as much as possible. Pick a quiet restaurant and request a quiet table away from the kitchen, away from the bar or other loud tables or road noise.
In a crowd, don’t be too concerned about personal space. Get up close and personal to effectively hear.
One on one conversation is ideal. Larger groups of 5 or more are more difficult to follow the conversation, so pull your friend away from a larger group to talk when appropriate.
When entering a group ask one person to sum up the gist of the conversation
Most hearing aids are equipped with directional microphones – position yourself with your back to the crowd and isolate the speaker to a position with little or no noise behind them.
At a lecture or meeting ask for notes/materials before the lecture and look these over to understand topics and contexts.
At a lecture or meeting ask a friend to take notes for you to free you to listen attentively watching the speaker’s visual cues.
When going to a play call ahead and reserve good seats or arrive early to get good seating up close.
Be aware that hearing impaired people are usually MORE sensitive to loud sounds than normal hearing people. Therefore, you may be more distracted or irritated at loud environmental noise than others. Consider this when picking your movies or seating yourself in a concert.
When going to a movie or play read reviews first to get the plot.
Get important information in writing or repeat what you heard back to the speaker to insure accurate communication.
On the phone:
Insure that your hearing aid is on the proper setting for the telephone. Many hearing aids are equipped with a telephone coil offering significant help on land-line phones.
Consider an ALD. An amplified land-line phone isn’t very expensive and offers significant amplification and clarity. A neck-loop or Bluetooth streamer can offer superior sound and convenience for cell phones.
Utilize caller identification. This will help significantly in identifying the caller and helping you establish the context of the call to understand the initial sentences of the conversation.
Utilize a speaker phone to enable listening with both ears and minimizing feedback from your hearing aids.
When setting up your voicemail insure that the caller leaves a message repeating the return number twice. It may help to ask the caller to speak slowly and distinctly.
When using a behind-the-ear hearing aid with the telephone try positioning the phone close the hearing aid on top of your ear.
Relax! You usually don’t listen well in times of relaxation because good listening does require concentration and effort, especially for the hearing impaired. Still, don’t let the situation or the speaker upset you. If you’ve done all you can to maximize your hearing, minimize the background noise and inform the speaker of your needs, then it’s time to relax and do the best you can to participate in life.
Be assertive, acknowledge your hearing loss and ask for help. There’s a time to bluff and nod while you try to piece together the conversation, but it’s important to follow through asking questions for clarification.
Don’t get into the habit of allowing someone else to listen for you.
Tell the speaker what part of the conversation you missed.
Ask them to rephrase or simplify what was said rather than repeat the entire conversation. This will reduce frustration for both you and the speaker.
Check the situation in the environment before blaming your hearing aids. It could be that even normal listeners are struggling to hear due to background noise, poor room acoustics or a poor speaker or PA system.
Keep up with current affairs. Anticipating topics of conversation revolving around a particular person’s areas of interest may help you prepare to converse with that person if you’ve taken the time to learn more about these.
Educate others about hearing impairment, needs of the hearing impaired and ways to help. It’s YOUR job to help family and friends help YOU with YOUR impairment.
Become familiar with the way different people communicate – facial expressions, individual vocabulary and sentence structure, unique speech (dialect, accent), etc. The more that you talk with someone the easier understanding becomes.
Listening can be tiresome. Take a break after an hour or so of listening in difficult environments.
Speak to others as you want them to speak to you – especially in relationship to rate and volume of speech.
Pay attention to your own speech since you might not always hear correctly, you might have a tendency to drop the ends of your words and pronounce some sounds differently. Ask family and friends to help you monitor your speech.
Take a speech reading course. Some courses are available online, or ask your audiologist about where these might be offered in your area.
Control the environment as much as possible to maximize the speech you want to hear and minimize background noise. Offer suggestions to the person to whom you’re listening.
Don’t control the conversation! Many hearing impaired people try to reduce their need to listen in conversation by talking as much as they can. This is rude and diminishes good communication.
The ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) prohibits discrimination against those with a hearing disability. This act relates to many environments in public including the workplace. For instance, if you have a hearing disability and have done all that you can to maximize your hearing, then your employer may be required to provide hearing aid compatible phones or replace a noisy air conditioner unit or address poor acoustics in a workroom. Movie theaters are required to provide assistive listening devices or a refund if the sound is not audible to the hearing impaired. Check online for more information regarding the ADA and its relevance to the hearing impaired.
Protect what you’ve got! Always wear hearing protection in loud environments or limit the amount of time you spend around loud noise. It may seem inconvenient to put in noise plugs or muffs, but harming your ears will be more of an inconvenience in communication in the future. So, protect your hearing when mowing the lawn, using the vacuum cleaner or hair blow-drier for extended time, using power tools or around loud impulse noise like shooting guns. Any noises as loud as or louder than these can cause damage to your hearing. Hearing loss is cumulative, and once you’ve lost it – it’s gone! There are ways to help with hearing impairment, but try never to compromise your hearing because
‘Communication IS Life!’