I’m an audiologist and would like to share information with you about improving your hearing and listening skills. I see approximately 1,000 patients per year and one of the first questions I ask an adult patient is “What brings you to the office today?” The most popular answer is “My wife sent me.” I often hear my patients say “My children mumble and talk fast, so I can’t understand what they say.” What I don’t often hear is “I don’t hear very well and I really want to take care of this problem.”
If you are reading this article all the way through, you may have a family member with hearing difficulties or are concerned about your own ability to hear. Most of us experience decreased hearing from a lifetime of noise exposure that takes its toll on our very delicate inner ear hair cells. The pathways in the brain work less efficiently with age, as well as our ability to process speech information in the presence of background noise. For most people, these events occur very slowly. Typically, family members notice our hearing is slipping before we notice it!
I like to simplify most of life’s situations with “this is the good news” and “this is the bad news.” Most of my patients who struggle with their hearing already know the bad news (their hearing is not very good). In my experience, the good news is that approximately 95% of people with hearing loss can find significant help when they seek help.
I have been wearing eyeglasses to correct my very poor distance vision since I was eight years old. I would never get behind the wheel of my car without wearing those corrective lenses. Yet I am often asked by patients, “Why do people think nothing of wearing eyeglasses but object to hearing aids?” The hearing aid industry estimates that there are roughly 30 million Americans with enough hearing difficulty who could benefit from wearing hearing aids, but instead choose not to acquire them. Some people refuse to get help because they think the reason they don’t hear is that other people don’t speak loud enough or clear enough. Some people don’t like the idea of hearing aids because they associate it with getting old. Some people have financial objections or simply can’t afford to buy hearing aids (they are not generally covered by health insurance in the United States). Others just don’t want the help in spite of feeling frustrated with poor hearing.
We all hear with less difficulty when we’re not distracted by other noise and are paying direct attention to who is speaking to us. In the absence from the kind of help that hearing aids can provide, here are some helpful tips and suggestions that may ease communication in your home:
- Make every effort to begin your conversations in the same room as the person you are talking with if you have difficulty hearing or live with someone who does not hear well.
- Call out with an attention-getting method: “Michael?” Wait until Michael is looking at you, then begin to talk.
- Reduce competing noises like muting the TV to speak to the family member with hearing difficulty. Remember that people with excellent hearing don’t hear perfectly, especially when people talk fast and when there is background noise.
If you have difficulty hearing and would like more information, contact Pen Bay Speech & Hearing at 207-230-6380.
Gary Friedman, MS, FAAA, audiologist at Pen Bay Speech & Hearing and member of the American Academy of Audiology, has extensive experience in audiometric testing, hearing aid dispensing and videonystagmography (VNG) evaluations.