The Official SoundScape Weblog

The Official SoundScape Weblog

Ears to Hear

Hear for the Holidays

     It is easy for those with good hearing to take their hearing for granted. At this time of year most people aren’t stressing over family gatherings and holiday parties, considering avoiding them all together, because of a hearing loss. We might be stressed, but it’s not because we are worried about the discomfort, embarrassment, or feelings of being left out that a hearing loss can cause. And not knowing what it’s like to live with hearing loss we often forget to practice good communication skills with those who having hearing loss; we may even get annoyed and angry at those who struggle to hear us. (Of course if they refuse to do anything about their hearing loss we may have good reason to be annoyed and angry.)


     A few years ago I suffered a temporary hearing loss as a result of sitting to close to a speaker at a rock concert. I could hear just fine in quiet one-on-one situations; in noisy large group situations I could barely understand anything anyone said to me. I remember going to a party and not being able to take part in a single conversation. I couldn’t enjoy my time with my friends; it was nearly pointless for me to be there. Nobody got mad at me, and people tried talking to me so I could hear, but it didn’t matter – I was left out. My hearing recovered, but if it hadn’t I know that I would never want to go to any large group situation again. I would have withdrawn from a lot of situations and avoided many social gatherings. And if I did have to go to something there’s no way I’d be able to enjoy it.


     So this holiday season please be considerate of those with hearing loss. Even if they have hearing aids they will still most likely not have normal hearing and won’t be able to hear as well as they used to. Of course, even people with normal hearing don’t hear everything and struggle when background noise gets too loud, but a person with hearing loss will not be able to tolerate as much background noise. The two things you can do that will help a person with hearing loss the most is to look at them when you talk to them and to slow down. You usually don’t have to talk louder, just slower.


     If you see a friend and family member struggling in noisy or group situations, or they withdraw or avoid these situations all together this may be one of the first signs they have a hearing loss. The most common hearing loss is a noise induced hearing loss. A person with this type of loss may still be able to hear lower frequency sounds as well as ever, but cannot hear those higher frequency sounds  which are the most important for understanding speech.  This means they can hear people talk and may understand people with lower voices without much problem, but will struggle to understand women’s and children’s voices. It also means that they may do just fine in quiet one on one situations, but will struggle in noisy situations. 


     Finally, if your friend or family member, or you, are not enjoying social situations because of an inability to understand what is being said it may be time to consider hearing aids.

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