MAY IS BETTER SPEECH AND HEARING MONTH
Did you ever stop to think how many things play a role in good communication? To start, it helps to have:
- Clear speech
- Ability to hear
- Good lighting for visual cues
- Direct path for sound to travel (face to face)
- Attention and focus
…and so much more.
If all conversations were held with the above considerations, communication would be easy. But too often, one or more of these are missing and communication becomes frustrating and confusing.
I once heard that hearing loss is the only health problem a person has that they believe others are responsible for fixing. When a person is having difficulty hearing another, they will often say things like: “You don’t enunciate your words!”, “You’re always mumbling”, “You can’t talk to me when facing the other way”, etc. But if this same person had vision loss, they would never tell the other person, “You need to make yourself less blurry!”
When it comes to communication, there will always be factors outside of our control. You cannot control the lighting or the background noise in a restaurant. You cannot enhance visual cues if speaking to someone over the phone. You cannot request that every person you speak with raise their voice and speak slowly and clearly, so you can hear them better.
Luckily, there are things that you can control, which will help make these situations easier.
- If you have hearing loss, you can and should be fit with appropriate hearing aids
- In background noise, you can do your best to position yourself so you are facing the sounds you want to hear and facing away from unwanted background noise
- Advocate for yourself – if a person in your household tries to speak to you from down the hall, go to them and let them know you prefer to speak face to face
- Make sure you have a person’s full attention before beginning a conversation
Communication is vital for keeping us connected to friends, family, and others in our network. People with untreated hearing loss are at higher risk of social isolation, depression, and dementia.
The process of losing your hearing begins slowly and progresses over time. It’s normal to make accommodations for a short time, but after a while, those accommodations may no longer be helpful. Things like raising the volume on the TV, using a speaker phone instead of holding the phone to one ear, and asking people to repeat themselves are all common in the early stages of hearing loss.
Next, we may see clearer signs of hearing loss, like misunderstanding a word here and there, answering a question other than what was asked, and letting others around you carry the conversation, while you sit back.
Quickly, this can turn into withdrawing from conversations in group settings, avoiding restaurants or other places with loud background noise, reaching out less to friends and family over the phone, forgetting details of conversations, and general fatigue from trying so hard to listen and understand.
The average person in the US is aware of their hearing loss for 9 years before they are willing to seek treatment. A lot of communication can be had (and missed!) over the course of 9 years.
You owe it to yourself and to those around you to be a good communicator. If you notice you are making accommodations for your hearing loss… if your family members seem to be getting frustrated with the things you don’t hear properly… take control of what you can! Reach out to your local ENT physician or Audiologist. Try out a pair of hearing aids to see what they can do for you.
These are not your grandfather’s hearing aids! You can control your own settings using your phone as a remote; you can stream music, videos, or phone calls via Bluetooth; you no longer need to change batteries as in-the-ear and behind-the-ear styles are now rechargeable. There are dozens of tip sizes to fit in the smallest and largest of ear canals, or we can make a custom mold for your ears. We can match them to your hair color for discretion or offer fun colors to jazz up your look.
This May, during Better Hearing and Speech Month, we encourage you to notice the signs of hearing loss, pay attention to how it’s impacting your relationships and enjoyment of activities, and visit your local hearing care provider to take the first steps toward better communication.