Hard of Hearing?

Hello!

My name is Mckena, I am 21 years old, and I am hard of hearing. What that means is that I have a hearing loss. A few common ways to shorten the term hard of hearing is HoH or HH. You may also see it written as hard-of-hearing. Personally it doesn’t really offend me, but calling someone hearing impaired may be seen as offensive to some, so I recommend that you avoid saying that.

I do wear hearing aids. I have worn two of them since I turned 3 years old, even though the hearing loss has been present since birth. I’ve always worn very bright and colorful hearing aids, because I’ve always wanted to have hearing aids that are prettier, instead of the plain skin color hearing aids that are almost completely hidden inside the ears.

I am hoping to cover many topics related to my experiences as a young adult with hearing loss. I hope that what I share is useful for people with many different levels of hearing loss and different ages. I am fully aware that this is a condition that is primarily associated with elderly people. I have gotten to hear the perspectives of the many different types of people with hearing loss.

Thank you for reading all of this! Let me know if there are any particular topics you want me to cover.

 

 

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Communication Skills

Hello!

So this will be about how to communicate more effectively with both someone with who is hard of hearing or who doesn’t have any hearing loss, though a few will be specifically for those with hearing aids and hearing loss. First I will go over what the listener can do and then how the speaker can help the listener understand better. The reason why I am doing both of those categories is because everything isn’t just on the listener or speaker. They both can do things to help, because communication is a two way street. There are a lot more than what is on this list, but it is a start.

Listener

  • Try to avoid areas with a lot of background noise. Those situations are usually even a bit harder for people with no hearing loss. A person with hearing aids often struggle with filtering out that extra noise a lot more. The technology for hearing aids have gotten much better and will often try to soften those sounds, but they still don’t compare to ears with no hearing loss.
  • Have realistic expectations. As I’ve mentioned before, hearing aids do not “fix” your hearing completely, especially in noisy places. Also, if you are already tired or drained, then it will be much harder to actively listen compared to most people. Know that you will miss parts of conversations no matter what. If you have already spent all day in environments with lots of noise and you had to do a lot of listening in those places, your brain will have a harder time with following along. Funny thing is a consider myself an “outgoing introvert”, someone who likes being with people and being social, but I get incredibly drained from it. The truth might actually be that I just get so drained from listening that socializing turns into really hard work.
  • If you are in an area that isn’t conductive to effective communication, I suggest trying to go to another area or place. For example, if you are in the middle of a restaurant where you are surrounded by talking people all around you or sitting right next to the kitchen door where you can hear all the clattering dishes, try asking your waiter or waitress for another spot that is quicker, like the corner of restaurant. You can even ask even before being seated. Don’t worry about being “too demanding”. Eating out is often a social event, so it would be a shame if you miss most of the conversations, because all you heard the entire night was flushing toilets.
  • If you are hanging out with a group, ask a friend beforehand if they would mind being your communication partner. Let them know that you will be next to them and will periodically ask them to repeat what has been said or ask what the current subject of the conversation is. On a related note, let at least a few of your really close friends or family members know how they can communicate better with use using some of the tips in the “speaker” category, because the more that others know how to help you understand, the better. They do not want you to feel excluded, just because you can’t hear most of what is being said. If you are truly important to them, they want you to be involved too. Let others know how important it is that you hear what they have to say.

Speaker

  • Try to keep your hands away from your mouth or anything else that can block your mouth. Talking while eating is also a lot harder to understand. Another thing is that facial hair may make it harder for others to understand since they may obscure the speaker’s mouth partially or entirely. Also, it helps to have enough light on your face so that the listener can see it clearly.
  • When talking do not overly exaggerate or shout, because often times that doesn’t help the listener. It is a common misconception that it will help, but if someone is trying to read lips while listening, which we all do to some extent to help with understanding speech, they aren’t used to reading lips that move in an overly exaggerated manner or in a painfully slow way. Both of those and shouting also distorts the way you sound when talking.
  • At the beginning of the conversation, there are a few things you want to do. Make sure you are facing the listener if you can. It is a lot harder to understand someone from a different room or when they are facing away from you. On a related note, it is best to actually say their name at first, because now the listener knows to direct their attention on you. It is also helpful to state what the topic is going to be, so that it is easier to follow along, because oftentimes knowing the topic, helps me know what type of vocabulary is to be expected. If we are talking about alcohol, then we know that the word “beer” is more likely to pop up than “deer” or “tear”.
  • Similar to the last tip, if you are about to change the subject, try leading into the next topic rather than just jumping into it. If you are talking about you favorite beer in one sentence, but then talking about the deer you saw in your yard in the next sentence with little/no warning, not only could the jump confuse the listener, but the listener might not even realize the jump even happened.

There are so many more, but this is all I am giving today. If you utilize any of these, I personally thank you for trying to be a better communicator. I can’t tell you how helpful it is to those around you. One interesting thing. I live with a fellow hard-of-hearing  roommate. One reason we like living together is because we are both actually really good at using good communication skills subconsciously. We both automatically keep our hands away from our mouths. We both will make sure we face each other and are in the same room for both of our benefits. Even with her “deaf accent”, she is one of the easiest people for me to understand with or without hearing aids. I’m the same for her. Usually when people think of two hard-of-hearing people talking together, they think of them having two completely unrelated conversations.

Anyways, Thank you!

Hearing loss for Senior Citizens

Hello!

I’ve actually been to a convention for hearing impaired people. We went with a communication partner, a person who you communicate with often in your daily life. We learned about various listening and communication skills and we brought that partner because listening isn’t a one sided thing. The people in our lives also need to learn how to communicate in ways that are clear to us. For example, if someone has repeated the same thing in hopes that you hear it (I am going to the store to get some food), one thing they can do is try rephrasing (I am going to go buy groceries). Say it in a different way, because obviously you aren’t being understood saying it first way. Maybe they are struggling to hear S sounds, because it is a soft higher pitched sound and can’t understand the word store and some. In this case, the communicator has to change how he communicates. Not the best example, but you get the idea.

Now the real reason, I’m writing this. My roommate, who was my communication partner, and I were the youngest attendees. Almost all of the others were senior citizens, and while I was there I got to learn a little bit about how seniors views hearing aids and hearing loss. I’ve mentioned before that senior citizens will often deny they have a hearing problem, and refuse to wear hearing aids. One person there told me, that when you are getting old, it isn’t just the hearing loss. Your entire body is slowly shutting down on you. It is falling apart and gradually becoming less healthy. It isn’t just their ears, but pretty much every part of their body. Losing their hearing is something that they associate with aging and in their case it is because of age. It is something that they feel ashamed of, which is sad. Their quality of life has just been getting worse and worse, and sometimes they just don’t want to believe that.

Most will get hearing aids, but the nude ones. The ones that hide their hearing loss. Even if they have realized that they do need them and will admit it, it is still not something that they are proud of. They want to hide from others just how much their body is betraying them. Now this isn’t what all elderly people think, this is just the general view I’ve gotten from the other people at the convention. Maybe some really are vain and just think that hearing aids are ugly looking pieces of technology, and don’t want to draw attention to them for that reason.

If y’all want, in the future I can talk more about the convention and some of the things I’ve learned there. I might still have the big binder I received there that has a bunch of information about communicating.

Thanks!

How socially isolating is hearing loss?

Hello!

Sometimes people will refuse to wear any hearing aids and will deny that they need them. It is true. They don’t need them, but it can have a pretty dramatic impact on their quality of life. Do you know what is one of the things that they can help with the most? Their social life.

“blindness cuts us off from things, but deafness cuts us off from people.” -Helen Keller

Helen Keller believed that deafness was a “much worse misfortune”. The reason being that most languages are spoken. I remember hearing about a family who had a deaf daughter. A few of the immediate family members could sign, but every so often they would invite extended family to dinner, none of who would know how to sign. At first one of the siblings would try to include the deaf girl, but with a bunch of people, the conversation bouncing around from person to person, and with multiple conversations going on, it was hard for the sibling to sign everything, so they would eventually give up, leaving the deaf girl out of the conversation completely. So the girl eventually just started going to her room after she was finished with her dinner, because it was pretty much impossible for her to follow what was going on. So she missed out on a lot of chances to socialize and communicate with her family, because of this.

Now I am not deaf, but I go to restaurants every so often with a big group of my friends and hearing aids are terrible for those type of situations. People usually go to restaurants specifically to socialize, yet I am there struggling to catch any of the conversations, which does feel very isolating. I feel myself start to shut down after awhile, because the energy I have to use to follow along is incredibly draining. If I didn’t have any hearing aids, I would shut down almost immediately. Every so often I end up in situations where I am without my hearing aids and people are talking to each other. Every time I shut down from the beginning, because it makes me feel like a burden having to get people repeat things a bunch of times and then them eventually saying “never mind” or “It isn’t anything important”. The thing is it is incredibly important to me, because I value what others have to say. I want others to know that I want to listen to them, but at the same time I know it can be frustrating to others. If it is that frustrating to repeat yourself, can you imagine how frustrating it is to be the person who is embarrassing themselves and can’t understand what someone is saying after multiple attempts?

I understand that being blind has its own problems that would seem impossible fr me to overcome, but I don’t think that people often realize just how it can feel to be excluded from a lot of conversations. Being deaf can be similar to living in a foreign country that speaks a language that you can’t speak. Ever. On the plus side, at least deaf people can learn to read English, which definitely helps. I’m not going to pretend that I understand how isolating being completely deaf can be, but being hard of hearing, I do get a little taste of what it is like. This is one reason why deaf communities are important. So that deaf people can experience fluid communication and language with people similar to them.

Thanks for reading!

Colorful Molds and Pride

Hello!

So this will be about having colorful hearing aid molds. First hearing aid molds, are the soft squishy part of a BTE hearing aid that sits inside of the ear canal. I’ve only ever had colorful molds. Green. Blue. White. Purple. Pink. One color that I pretty much always have somewhere is purple, because purple is my favorite color and I would try other colors more if I weren’t limit to one pair at a time and if I got to change my molds more often than every few years. It isn’t quite like braces where you can change the elastics in a month when you visit the orthodontist again.

Something that I’ve noticed over the years is that generally elderly people who lose their hearing due to age tend to have skin/nude colored hearing aids. People who have had them since they were really young tend to go for the crazy colors. Even though I am now 21 years old, I still am not at all interested in the plain looking hearing aids, and a lot of my friends who are now young adults and grew up with hearing aids. I never understood why until I got to talk more with elderly people with hearing loss. They try everything they can to hide their loss. They go for the most hidden hearing aids that they can get. It always felt almost vain to me.

One reason that I wear brightly colored hearing aids is so that people notice them. This is one of the ways that I show my pride in being this way. My pride in overcoming some of the struggles I’ve encountered being HoH. It is a way to show people that I might need a little bit of assistance at times. It is my way of making sure people can see that part of myself, because it is part of my identity. There are things that I never would’ve gotten the opportunity to do had it not been for my hearing loss. So to be ashamed of my hearing loss and go out of my way to hide them would really be a shame. I’ve worked hard to have a fairly normal sounding voice. I continue to work hard to improve my singing voice, despite having a slight disadvantage over others. I’ve danced for most of my life, despite struggling a bit to hear the music at times. I want people to know that I have a hearing loss. Not to play the “handicapped” card, but to show that I have done a lot despite it.

In the future, I will cover the some of the reasons that elderly people go out of their way to hide their hearing loss.

Terminology

This is my big list of terms that I’ll be updating as I think of more words that I think is useful to know.

Acquired deafness- deafness that isn’t present at birth and occurs later on in life.

American Sign Language- A language most commonly used in North America that uses hand movements and facial gestures. It is a complete language that is mostly used by deaf people. It has its own unique grammar and syntax. It is also known as ASL.

ASL- acronym for American Sign Language.

Audiogram- the result of a hearing test on a chart. One axis being frequency also known as pitch measured with Hertz and the other being intensity measured by decibels.

Audiologist- medical professionals who diagnoses hearing loss and related conditions and also provides appropriate treatments.

Behind-The-Ear Hearing Aid (BTE hearing aid)- a type of hearing aid where the amplifier sits on top of the entire ear and the mold sits inside the ear.

Bilateral hearing loss- some degree of hearing loss on both sides/ears.

Cerumen- a fancy way of saying earwax.

Closed captions- a text display of the audio from a TV show, movie, or a video on a computer. It is usually displayed on the bottom of the screen. This is pretty similar to, but different from, subtitles.

Cochlear Implants- a type of device that helps deaf people hear to some degree. Only some deaf people can get them and even less want them or can afford them. Also, their hearing isn’t restored to a level that a person with no hearing loss has.

Conductive Hearing Loss- Hearing loss that is a result of an abnormality of the outer or middle ear.

Congenital Hearing Loss- hearing loss present at birth.

Deaf (culturally)- people who are considered Deaf typically uses American Sign Language, is part of the Deaf community, and celebrates hearing loss and Deaf culture. The capital D in Deaf is an important distinction. Deaf people might not be deaf and vice versa. deaf people, Read below for the term “deaf” with a lower case d.

deaf (phyiscally)- a condition of having very little to no hearing in one or both ears. May or may not consider themselves to be Deaf (culturally).

deaf community- includes many people other than people who have no hearing. There are family members of deaf and HoH people.

Decibel (dB) – unit used to measure loudness.

Eustachian Tube- one of my favorite words. Not entirely related, but it is the tube between your throat and middle ear that is responsible for equalizing the pressure in your ear with the pressure outside of your body.

Feedback- when the hearing aid is producing a high pitched squealing due to the hearing aid’s microphone picking up on the hearing aid’s output. It is pretty annoying.

Fingerspell- it is when you use the ASL alphabet to spell out words you either don’t know the sign to or words that doesn’t have a common sign. This is used a lot more than verbal English spelling, because there are quite a few words that don’t have signs.

Gain- the additional intensity that a hearing aid wearing gains by wearing hearing aid(s).

Hard of Hearing- a person who has mild to severe hearing loss that doesn’t consider themselves to be deaf. Usually their primary method of communication is speech and may know Sign language.

Hearing aids- a type of device used to help improve hearing and most commonly used by people with mild to severe hearing loss.

Hearing impaired- a somewhat offensive and outdated term for hearing loss, because it implies that the person is damaged and has something that needs to be fixed.

Hearing people- a person with no hearing loss.

HoH/HH- acronym for Hard of Hearing

(ASL) Interpreter- someone who translates spoken English to ASL and vice versa, so that people with hearing loss can understand surrounding spoken conversations.

Lipreading- a way of increasing understanding by trying to guess which words are being spoken by watching lips, though the degree it can help is limited.

Mainstream education- a child who goes to a local school that isn’t specifically for students with hearing loss or doesn’t have a hard of hearing/deaf program. The hard of hearing students is learning with hearing students, instead of mostly deaf and/or hard of hearing students.

Mixed Hearing Loss- when a person has both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss.

Noise Induced Hearing Loss- hearing damage that is a result of repeated exposure to really loud sounds for an extended period of time.

Reading lips- see lipreading.

Sensorineural Hearing Loss- hearing loss that occurs in the inner ear (Cochlea) or nerves that leads from the ear to the brain.

Service/hearing dog- a dog that aids many different type of people, but in this context will mean dogs that aid deaf and HoH people. They can act as ears and alert their owners of ringing doorbells, alarms, knocking, microwaves, and anything else that may make noises.

Speech–language pathologist- a fancy way of saying speech therapist, which is someone who diagnoses and treats various speech disorders and related conditions.