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Ear, Nose, and Throat Disorders

Tips for the Hearing Impaired and their Friends and Relatives

Don't Let Your Hearing Impairment Hold You Back

The following tips focus on maintaining a high quality of life:

  1. A complete otologic examination is necessary to determine what type of hearing impairment is present, its probable cause, and recommended treatment.

  2. Hearing is the natural and normal way to understand speech. If your hearing can be improved by medical or by surgical means, or through the use of a hearing aid, this should be done.

  3. Whatever the type of treatment carried out, rehabilitation is essential if you are to gain maximum benefits from treatment.

  4. Be determined to master speech reading. Make a hobby of it. Speech reading will help in every conversation.

  5. Make every effort to relax. Do not strain either to hear, or to see speech. Strain causes tension and makes lip reading much more difficult. A combination of hearing and seeing, under relaxed conditions, enables persons with impaired hearing to understand most speakers quite well.

  6. Do not expect to understand every word in a conversation, but follow along with the speaker. As you become familiar with the rhythm of the speech, key words will emerge and you will be able to understand the complete thought.

  7. Try to stage-manage the situation to your advantage. Lighting is important. Avoid facing a bright light and avoid having a shadow on the speaker's face. Six feet is an ideal separation from the speaker. His lip movements, facial expressions and gestures can be readily observed at this distance.

  8. Maintain an active interest in people and events. Keep abreast of national affairs and events in your community and intimate social circle. You will be able to follow discussions more easily as a result.

  9. Remember that conversation is a two-way affair. Do not monopolize a conversation in an attempt to direct and control it. On the other hand, do not let it pass by without participating. Take an active and interested part whenever possible.

  10. Be particular about your speech. A hearing impairment that occurs over a long period of time may bring about changes in volume as well as speaking and voice quality. These changes must be prevented whenever possible and corrected when they occur. A pleasant, well-modulated voice is a great asset.

  11. Recognize the challenges that others face, and strive to help them. This prevents you from becoming too inwardly focused, and helps to put your own challenges in perspective.

  12. Take on the task of educating the public. You cannot help others to understand your problem if you conceal if from them. Do not hide the fact that you wear a hearing aid, or that you depend on speech reading to understand conversation. By letting others know about your problem you can make communication easier for you. It is only through mutual acceptance and through understanding of the problems of persons with impaired hearing that a person with normal hearing can be expected to adjust to the needs of the speech reader. Without this understanding, any well-meaning person may unintentionally add to the problems of the speech reader.

  13. Always keep in mind that the success of your hearing rehabilitation is largely dependent on you, your attitude, and your acceptance of your problem.

  14. Do not attempt to set an endurance record or to wear the aid at first during all of your waking hours. If you are tired and fatigued after using the aid for an hour or two, take it off. Let the way you feel be your guide. You can, over a period of several weeks, gradually lengthen the amount of time that you wear the aid.

Hints For Friends And Relatives of The Hard Of Hearing (Do's And Don'ts)

DO:

DON'T:

How To Use A Hearing Aid For Maximum Benefit

  1. Use the Aid First in Your Own Home Environment. Your hearing aid amplifies noise as well as it amplifies music or speech. As a result, you may be disturbed temporarily by background noise. Concentrate on listening for all of the normal household sounds and try to identify each sound that you hear. Once you can identify background noises, such as the hum of the refrigerator, the roar of an electric fan, the clinking of dishes, or the slamming of doors, these noises will be less annoying and distracting to you.

  2. Wear the Aid only as Long as You Are Comfortable With It. Do not attempt to set an endurance record or to wear the aid at first during all of your waking hours. If you are tired and fatigued after using the aid for an hour or two, take it off. Let the way you feel be your guide. You can, over a period of several weeks, gradually lengthen the amount of time that you wear the aid.

  3. Accustom Yourself to the Use of the Aid by Listening to Just One Person Talk about Familiar Topics. Use common expressions and names, or series of numbers. Being able to anticipate what is being said will help you get over the first hurdles. After a few days of practice with one person in a quiet environment, try a different listening exercise. Turn on the radio or the television and try to understand your companion's speech with the background noise.

  4. Do not Strain to Catch Every Word. The importance of listening carefully and of concentrating on what is being said cannot be overemphasized. However, do not worry if you miss an occasional word. Normal hearing persons miss individual words or parts of sentences and unconsciously "fill in" with the thought expressed. (Keep your eye on the face of the speaker. Speech reading is a great help as a supplement to the hearing aid.)

  5. Do not Be Discouraged by the Interference of Background Noises. If your initial experience with the aid is unsatisfactory, remember that you are learning new habits, or rather, learning old habits in a new setting. Normal hearing persons are aware of background noises too, but have learned to tune them out. As you learn to discriminate between noise and speech and to identify various background sounds, you will be able to ignore background noises just like persons with normal hearing do.

  6. Practice Locating the Source of Sound Only by Listening. Localization of sound (the determination of the direction from which the sound comes) often presents a special problem to wearers of hearing aids. One exercise that helps to develop directional perception is to relax in a chair, keep your eyes closed, and have someone speak to you from different places in the room. Each time your helper changes his position, attempt to locate him through the sound of his voice alone.

  7. Increase Your Tolerance for Loud Sounds. At first, hearing aid users tend to set the volume control at a level too low for effective listening. Louder sounds need not cause discomfort. The use of a very simple procedure may, over a period of time, increase your tolerance for sound. While you are listening to one speaker or to your radio or television in your own home, gradually turn up the volume of your hearing aid until the sound is very loud. When the loudness is uncomfortable, very slowly turn the volume down to a more comfortable level. After a period of practice you will find that your comfort level has increased considerably.

    Words
  8. Practice Learning to Discriminate Difference Speech. Prepare a list of that differ one sound only. ask someone help pronouncing these slowly and distinctly. watch lip movements closely while you carefully listen for differences in similar words. then try to discriminate the words by listening alone.

  9. Listen to Something Read Aloud. A good exercise in listening is to have a companion read aloud from a magazine or a newspaper while you follow along with your own copy of the reading materials. At regular intervals, your reader should stop and have you repeat the last word read.

  10. Gradually Increase the Number of Persons with Whom You Talk, While Staying within your Home Environment. You will find that it is more difficult to carry on a conversation with three or four individuals than it is with one. Being in your home environment will help you master this task. Concentrate mainly on the person who is talking the most.

  11. Gradually Increase the Number of Situations in Which You Use Your Hearing Aid. After you have adjusted fairly well in your own home to background noise and to conversations with several people at once, you will be ready to extend the use of your aid to the super market, church, theater, and other public places. Turn the volume low to reduce the impact of unfamiliar background noises; do not sit under balconies; move about in the different areas of the auditorium or theater until you find a section or a seat where you can hear well. Dining out may present special problems to the hearing aid user. Therefore, eat your first meals in public in a quiet restaurant with carpeted floors and draped windows. Avoid noisy cafeterias. As your tolerance for noise increases, you will find it easier to experiment with increasingly noisy environments.

  12. Take Part in an Organized Course in Lip Reading. Lip reading will help you in general communication with others; consider it an important supplement to the use of the hearing aid. Although lip reading has many limitations - some words cannot be seen on the lips and some words cannot be distinguished from others - lip reading combined with a hearing aid is often more satisfactory than either one alone.

  13. Try Using the Telephone while Wearing your Hearing Aid. If your hearing loss is not especially severe, you will probably be able, with a little practice, to use your hearing aid with the telephone. Place the receiver end of the telephone next to the microphone of the hearing aid. In some hearing aids, the induction coil (a device used to enhance sound) is an important part of the aid and the cordless portion of the telephone is placed in contact with the case of the aid. Getting used to the placement of the telephone and getting used to listening in this manner requires practice. It is suggested that you arrange to have a friend telephone you at a certain time each day for several days to help you become accustomed to the telephone procedure with the hearing aid.

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Last Reviewed: Mar 24, 2006

David  L Steward, MD David L Steward, MD
Professor of Otolaryngology
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati