Ignoring hearing loss is easier when you’re alone. You can turn up the volume on the TV or radio as loud as you want, and you don’t have to ask anyone to repeat what they just said. But how do you cope with hearing loss when you’re in a social or business setting?
The question is far from academic. One out of every six baby boomers has a hearing problem, and one in 14 members of Generation X has a hearing problem, according to the Better Hearing Institute. Hearing loss affects about 10 percent of the American population.
The difficulties associated with hearing loss can be more pronounced and troublesome when experienced in a social or professional setting.
Whether you’re attending an office party, listening for your flight number to be called in an airport, or participating in a high-power board meeting, not being able to clearly hear what’s going on around you in a public setting can have serious repercussions.
Untreated hearing loss has been associated with a number of psychological and sociological problems, including depression, loneliness, diminished job performance and earning power, isolation and withdrawal from social situations, and impaired memory, according to BHI.
While assistive devices like hearing aids can help improve your hearing, nothing can really restore your hearing to its original, undamaged state.
Fortunately, it is possible to cope with hearing loss.
Accepting the challenge
It’s not uncommon for people to deny or ignore their hearing loss. But the first step toward coping with the problem is to accept that it exists.
If you suspect you have hearing loss—or have been told by others in your life that your hearing is faulty—ask yourself these questions:
• Do you find yourself turning up the volume on the TV or radio, especially when no one else is around to tell you it’s too loud?
• Do you often miss hearing the doorbell or telephone ringing?
• Do you frequently need to ask others to repeat what they’ve said?
• Do you misunderstand or “forget” conversations?
• Do you find yourself cupping your hand behind your ear to hear better?
These signs may indicate a hearing loss. Your doctor and/or an audiologist can help determine the degree of your hearing loss and establish a course of treatment.
Hearing aids can help people with hearing loss reconnect with other people —and with everything going on around them.
In the past, some people with hearing losses might have avoided hearing aids because they associated the devices with old age, or because they felt hearing aids were too bulky, visible or even ineffective.
Advances in hearing aid technology have made the devices easier than ever to use. Some are virtually invisible to others because they fit entirely within the ear canal.
The right hearing aid may help wearers hear better in a variety of settings, from one-on-one conversations with a loved one, to a teleconference with professionals from around the world.
Not every hearing aid will be right for every person. Your lifestyle and degree of hearing loss will influence what type of hearing aid will be most helpful for you.
A hearing-care professional can help you determine the right style and technology level for your needs.
In addition to finding the right assistive device, you can take some simple steps to cope with your hearing loss in public situations:
• In public settings such as parties or business meetings, move as close to the speaker as possible.
• Choose your seating location to maximize your ability to hear. Try to sit away from high-traffic areas such as main doorways, kitchen doors or buffet areas in restaurants, and phone banks or electronic devices in business settings.
• Don’t be afraid to ask for accommodations. For example, ask for a seat away from the stereo at the dinner party and suggest the host wait until after the festivities to run that noisy dishwasher. In an office meeting, ask others to postpone phone conversations until after the meeting is over.
With the right assistive device and coping strategies, you can minimize the impact your hearing loss has on your personal and professional life.