With 30 years as an audiologist under my belt, I’ve had a front-row seat watching people challenged with hearing loss admirably manage everything life throws at us. While everyone will approach hearing loss on their own terms, some of the key traits I’ve seen are a tremendous sense of determination, a positive attitude towards hearing aids, and a sense of humor. Given the suddenness of change we’ve all had to endure the past several weeks with COVID-19, we’ve moved into a whole new stratosphere of challenges and coping. For people with hearing loss, there is an entirely different layer to this change. This article is going to outline some tips to help navigate such unprecedented change.
You are Your Best Advocate
One of the first things I learned from a hearing loss client decades ago is that life became so much easier when he began taking charge of his situation. He would either drop subtle hints to people in order to make communication easier, or he would modify his situation to reduce or eliminate background noise, sit towards the front in meetings, etc. I remember him saying, “I have to control my environment and nobody will do that for me better than myself.” This is especially true today. Here’s an example of setting such expectations.
If you recently began working from home and have lost the ability to meet with people face-to-face, video calls can be wonderful, but also an adventure (more info on video call options below). Poor Internet connections lead to poor audio quality and frozen cameras, which make lip-reading and understanding conversations difficult. Before the meeting begins, try telling your co-workers something like this, “So we can best participate in the meeting together, please remember to turn on your video and speak clearly into their computer. And if possible, let’s try and avoid talking at once.” Simple statements like this go a long way and yet you’re not calling attention to your hearing loss.
Video Call Services for Hearing Loss
Video meetings and video calls are more popular than ever. FaceTime, Skype, Zoom, Cisco WebEx are just some of the options available. Having clear video on a large enough screen is critical to see someone’s face. FaceTime is popular, but lip reading on a phone being held by someone’s shaky hand can add to the complexity. Also, the audio from your computer can be unpredictable. This can easily be helped with the purchase of an inexpensive wired or Bluetooth speaker to increase the loudness. An Internet search for “small Bluetooth speakers” yields many options in various price ranges.
Skype has options for closed captioning during video calls. To make this feature work, try this link.
For overall video call services, here are some options as reviewed by www.Hearinglikeme.com. The direct link to the article can be found HERE. In summary, their testers found Zoom to be their favorite, but they also discuss a couple other options as well.
More Time at Home
As a society, there hasn’t been a time in recent memory where we’ve spent this much extended time at home with family. And when one or more members of a family have hearing loss, the behaviors associated with hearing problems can lead to added stress. One of the biggest sources of frustration is watching TV. Since we’re now catching up on movies and binge-watching shows on Netflix, you may have a heightened awareness with someone not understanding what’s being said at a “normal” volume level. The battle over TV volume has been known to lead to heated disagreements among family members. While hearing aids are always one option, here are three quick tips that can help:
- Try adjusting the audio settings on your TV through the ‘menu’ option.
- Finding an easy to use home speaker that can be strategically placed works wonders.
- There are wireless headphone options available that allow you to control the volume.
Other than watching TV at home, try to be more aware of general communication best-practices. For example, try not to speak to someone with hearing loss from another room or with your back to them. They need a clear direct voice and to see a person’s face. Also, be sure to have a conversation with as little background noise present as possible (TV, dishwasher, music, etc.) Understanding speech in noise is very difficult for someone with hearing loss, even if they are wearing hearing aids.
During a time like Covid-19, we all should be reminded of how important it is to value our health and always be prepared. If a medical emergency were to happen, here are some helpful things to remember should you have to visit the hospital or doctor.
If you wear hearing aids, make sure you understand the status of your warranty. Hearing aid warranties usually have a damage or repair warranty and a loss/damage warranty. If you are unsure, contact your hearing professional to check on the warranty status of your hearing aids. Hearing aids get lost in hospitals all the time and can be expensive to replace.
Be your own advocate and let people know how to best communicate with you. Read the first paragraph of this article as a reminder.
If you depend on lip-reading, you may want to consider purchasing a mask with a clear lip shield to provide the doctors or nurses. Safe‘N’Clear is one option to consider
It’s cliche but the phrase, “control what you can control” is so important during times of uncertainty. Being your own advocate, prepared, and staying current on trends and technology is some of the best advice we can give. Stay healthy and live the best life you can!