Monday, October 12, 2009

Tips for Coping with Hearing Loss: My Thoughts

There's a good article over at the Manitowoc Herald Times Reporter with some good tips for coping with hearing loss. I thought I'd go through their tips and add my thoughts and personal take on it.

Be prepared: Make sure you have, and know how to use, the best hearing aid and assistive technology you can get.
This is definitely true. It's very easy with anything, from glasses to hearing aids even to computers, to grow used to what we have, and see it as the norm. Whenever I go in for an eye exam, for example, and get new glasses, I'm always surprised that I was living with such "limited" vision before!

I recently got new hearing aids. My previous pair were almost a decade old and technology has advanced in leaps and bounds since then. I can't believe what I was missing!

Don't bluff: Many HOH people try to hide their hearing loss. This is a big mistake. It doesn't fool anyone. Tell people you don't hear well. Most people are happy to help someone with a hearing loss once they are aware of it.
This is definitely something I need to work on. I find it difficult to tell people I am hearing impaired and feel very self-conscious about it. I very rarely tell people, and only if someone is getting very upset with me at the fact that I can't hear (I'll admit it gives me a little satisfaction to tell an upset person that they've been yelling at a disabled person).

Be specific about asking for help...
In the article, the paper gives specific examples of how hearing people can assist those with hearing loss. Once I've told someone of my loss, I always try to give them helpful tips on how to assist me, but again, it's something that currently makes me feel self-conscious. I really need to learn to "self-advocate."

Pick your best location: Arrive at meetings early and sit where you can hear best. Choose a position that's quiet and has good lighting.
I always try to do this - it's something that has become a habit with me.

Anticipate: Plan ahead for what questions are likely to be asked next...
I have become a master at this type of thing. It's probably a combination of my hearing loss and my shyness. I want to be sure I know what is coming up and have a solid expectation for it. Working in a public service role has also made me aware of what questions are typically asked by people and how to anticipate them.

Pay attention...
Yes, definitely. Body language is one way I ensure I am getting the gist of what is being said. At this point I find it difficult to multitask while talking to someone because what I do in a conversation - making sure I heard them, seeing their body language, and other forms of communication - require quite a bit of attention.

Take the pressure off: The person you are speaking with may be afraid of you not understanding them. Let them know that the hearing loss is your problem … not theirs.
I'm torn about this. On one hand yes, my hearing loss is mine and mine alone. I take personal responsibility for understanding what the person said and I certainly don't blame them if I misunderstood something. However... if a person is aware I have a loss I think it is only courteous and respectful to ensure they are hearing everything and take some of the pressure off them.

Advocate: Many public places — like hotels, churches, libraries, museums, stadiums, auditoriums, theaters, etc. — should provide assistive listening technology. When available, use it... 
I absolutely agree that public spaces should provide assistive listening technology, although I myself rarely use it or request it. I typically don't feel as though I need it in certain settings and I often forget to advocate for those like me who may need it. At my workplace I try to keep up on emerging assistive technologies for every type of disability.

Never give up...
Sometimes I do feel like I want to give up. Saturday night I was at a gaming session with my friends and had some trouble following the plot of the game because of the loudness of the store we were at. I did give up despite the fact that my friends made it clear they wanted me to understand and enjoy the game. I'm grateful to them for insisting.

Show your appreciation: Make sure that anyone who goes out of their way to help you understands how much you appreciate their help.
I definitely try to appreciate those who help me and take an interest in seeing how they can help further. Some people are just awesome and even though I'm shy, I try to tell them how much I appreciate it!
Thanks to the Manitowoc Herald Times Reporter and the author Bobbie Monroe for an informative and helpful article. Definitely a bookmark for me and some food for thought.

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