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Living with hearing loss

If you are living with hearing loss, you know that it takes extra effort to communicate with others.

There are techniques you can learn to improve communication and avoid stress. These techniques can also help you:

  • Avoid becoming socially isolated
  • Remain more independent
  • Be safer wherever you are

Managing the environment

Many things in your surroundings can affect how well you hear and understand what others are saying. These include:

  • The type of room or space you're in, and how the room is set up.
  • The distance between you and the person talking. Sound fades over distance, so you will be able to hear better if you are closer to the speaker.
  • The presence of distracting background sounds, such as heat and air conditioning, traffic noises, or the radio or TV. In order for speech to be heard easily, it should be 20 - 25 decibels louder than any other surrounding noises.
  • Hard floors and other surfaces that cause sounds to bounce and echo. It is easier to hear in rooms with carpeting and upholstered furniture.

Changes in your house or office can help you hear better:

  • Make sure there is enough lighting to see facial features and other visual cues.
  • Position your chair so that your back is to a light source rather than your eyes.
  • If your hearing is better in one ear, position your chair so the person talking is more likely to speak into your stronger ear.

When taking part in a conversation

To better follow a conversation:

  • Stay alert and pay close attention to what the other person is saying.
  • Listen to the flow of the conversation for a while, if there are things you do not pick up at first. Certain words or phrases will often come up again in most conversations.
  • If you become lost, stop the conversation and ask for something to be repeated.
  • Use a technique called speech reading to help understand what is being said. This method involves watching a person’s face, posture, gestures, and tone of voice to get the meaning of what is being said. This is different from lip reading. There needs to enough light in the room to see the other person’s face in order to use this technique.
  • Carry a notepad and pencil and ask for a key word or phrase to be written down if you don’t catch it.

What else

Many different devices to help those with hearing loss are available. If you are using hearing aids, regular visits with your audiologists are important.

People around you can also learn methods to help them talk to a person with hearing loss .

References

Dugan MB. Living with Hearing Loss. Washington DC: Gallaudet University Press; 2003.

Updated: 5/17/2013

Ashutosh Kacker, MD, BS, Associate Professor of Otolaryngology, Weill Cornell Medical College, and Associate Attending Otolaryngologist, New York-Presbyterian Hospital, New York, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.


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