Can you tell me about hearing loss?
Hearing impairment, or deafness, is when your hearing is affected by a condition or injury. Some people are born with a hearing loss, while others may develop it as they get older. Most commonly, hearing loss happens with age or is caused by exposure to loud noise. One in six Australians are hearing impaired, deaf or have an ear disorder.
What are some of the early warnings signs?
Some of the early warning signs of hearing loss are: you need to turn the TV up louder than others; you think people mumble; you find it hard to hear in noisy situations or groups of people; you can hear but not understand; you don’t always hear the doorbell or on the phone.
Why are people reluctant to admit they are struggling to hear?
Despite the fact that deafness can be socially isolating, it can take 7-15 years for people who clearly have a hearing loss to get tested. A key reason for those long years in denial about deafness is the stigma of hearing loss.
How does hearing loss affect lives?
Hearing and quality of life are closely linked. Poor hearing affects both the person with the loss and those they communicate with. Hearing loss impacts on our social, emotional, psychological and physical well being. People with hearing impairment can experience: embarrassment; loss of confidence; irritability and anger; depression; a feeling of being ignored; dependence on others; withdrawal, isolation and loneliness; and tiredness. These effects mean hearing loss can place a very real strain on relationships and employment.
How has technology changed the lives of those who are hearing impaired?
Advances in technology have resulted in smaller, easier to use, clearer, smarter hearing aids and devices. Current hearing aids can be rechargeable; pair to your mobile phone (to stream conversations, music, and allow your phone to be the remote control for your hearing aids); compatible with accessories for TV.
The regular use of hearing aids improves quality of life in many ways, including:
- Better relationships with family and friends
- Improved health
- Enhanced social activity
- Reduction in discrimination against the person with the hearing loss
- Reduction in anger and frustration
- Greater earning power (especially the more severe hearing losses)
- A lower incidence of depression
How can we help people who are hearing impaired?
Communication strategies for family and friends include:
- Face the hearing-impaired person directly
- Do not talk from another room
- Avoid talking too rapidly
- Try to minimize background noise
- Ensure there is adequate lighting
- Say the person’s name and get their attention before beginning a conversation
- If the hearing-impaired person has a better ear, try to speak from that side.
- Speak clearly, slowly, distinctly, but naturally, without shouting or exaggerating mouth movements
- Try to find a different way of saying the same thing if they have misunderstood
- Acquaint the listener with the general topic of conversation
- Take turns speaking
How can I check if I have a hearing problem?
If you think you or a family member may have a hearing problem, see your GP. They will check your ear for any problems, such as earwax or a perforated eardrum. Your GP may refer you to an Audiologist (hearing specialist) or an ENT surgeon for further tests. Tackling the problem early can improve both your hearing and your quality of life.