Living with Hearing Loss

You are not alone. Help is available.

When someone has a hearing loss, the first step in coping with it is simply acknowledging its reality. This may not be easy to do, but you can’t take effective measures to minimize the impact of a hearing loss if you deny it.

This does not mean that you have to like it. But once diagnosed as having a hearing loss, then it’s time to move on.

Steps to Better Hearing:
There is More to Hearing Loss than Just a Hearing Aid

Hearing Aids

The appropriately selected hearing aid is often the most effective therapeutic measure for an individual with hearing loss. However, the process of selecting a hearing aid can sometimes seem daunting.

Know what questions to ask when you’re purchasing hearing aids. Ask what consumer protection laws are available in your state; what the trial period for hearing aids are, and ask about technologies in addition to your hearing aids that are available to make the most of your hearing aids.

Obtain appropriate, well-fitted hearing aids through a certified hearing professional. Professionals who dispense hearing aids include audiologists, hearing aid specialists and ear, nose and throat doctors. Hearing aids are necessary and an important first step in treating hearing loss. Hearing aids are not like glasses – they do not correct hearing, but they are helpful in improving hearing and quality of life.

Verify that the hearing professional is following the “best practices guidelines” as recommended by the American Academy of Audiology and the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

Cochlear Implants

Cochlear implants are medical devices that bypass damaged structures in the inner ear and directly stimulate the auditory nerve. They are surgically implanted to improve hearing in people with severe or profound hearing losses. They can create a range of sound, but do not replace normal hearing.

Cochlear implants are not recommended for all hard of hearing or deaf people. They are not recommended for people who function well with hearing aids.

To be considered for a cochlear implant, you will need to receive an evaluation by a physician and audiologist associated with a cochlear implant clinic.

Hearing Assistive Technology (HAT)

Assistive listening devices (ALDs) expand the functionality of hearing aids and cochlear implants by helping you separate the sounds you want to hear from background noise, and by enabling you to hear when the speaker is more than a few feet away.

Use assistive listening systems provided in many public places. TheAmericans with Disabilities Act requires most public venues to provide them. You will enjoy a movie or the theater more if you can hear what’s going on!

Be sure that you can effectively engage in telephone communication; if not, check with your hearing professional. Many alternatives, such as amplified phones and captioned phones systems, are available.

Be sure that you can hear the smoke and carbon monoxide. The typical ones emit a high-frequency tone that is difficult for people with hearing loss to hear, particularly when sleeping. There are systems that emit a low-frequency sound, or use strobe lights or a vibrator as an alerting system. An effective smoke alarm system can be a life saver.

Alarm-Type Devices
Those devices which warn, signal, and alert are called sensory devices and function by providing one or more types of:

  • Tactile
  • Visual
  • Auditory stimuli

Examples of sensory devices include wake-up and warning equipment which provide tactile or visual signals that can vibrate a wrist receiver or flash a light when there is a knock at the door or when the doorbell chimes or phone rings.

Basic Communication Tips

In the meantime there are simple things you can do to hear better with or without hearing aids. Communication is a two-way street. Here are tips for the person who hears well, and for the person who has the hearing loss:

Tips for Hearing Person to Communicate with Person who has a Hearing Loss

Set Your Stage

  • Face person directly.
  • Spotlight your face (no backlighting).
  • Avoid noisy backgrounds.
  • Get attention first.
  • Ask how you can facilitate communication.
  • When audio and acoustics are poor, emphasize the visual.

Get the Point Across

  • Don't shout.
  • Speak clearly, at moderate pace, not over-emphasizing words.
  • Don't hide your mouth, chew food, gum, or smoke while talking.
  • Re-phrase if you are not understood.
  • Use facial expressions, gestures.
  • Give clues when changing subjects or say “new subject.”

Establish Empathy with Your Audience

  • Be patient if response seems slow.
  • Talk to a hard of hearing person, not about him or her to another person.
  • Show respect to help build confidence and have a constructive conversation.
  • Maintain a sense of humor, stay positive and relaxed.
Tips for the Person with Hearing Loss to Communicate with Hearing People

Set Your Stage

  • Tell others how best to talk to you.
  • Pick your best spot (light, quiet area, close to speaker).
  • Anticipate difficult situations, plan how to minimize them.

Do Your Part

  • Pay attention.
  • Concentrate on speaker.
  • Look for visual clues.
  • Ask for written cues if needed.
  • Don’t interrupt. Let conversation flow to fill in the blanks and gain more meaning.
  • Maintain a sense of humor, stay positive and relaxed.

Establish Empathy with Audience

  • React. Let the speaker know how well he or she is conveying the information.
  • Don’t bluff. Admit it when you don’t understand.
  • If too tired to concentrate, ask for discussion later.
  • Thank the speaker for trying

Emergency Preparedness for People with Hearing Loss

Being prepared for an emergency isn’t complex. It’s simply a matter of thinking ahead and gathering what you need well before an emergency occurs. Emergency preparedness is the gift you give to yourself and to those you love the most.

Disaster preparation means taking a look to see what disasters might occur locally and providing a reasonable preparation for that disaster. You can’t stop disasters from happening, but you can have the resources available to prepare and respond appropriately so that the damage it inflicts isn’t catastrophic.

But What if I have a Hearing Loss?

You’re in luck. Within the last decade, there was little information available for people with disabilities in general, and even less for people with hearing loss. Then Hurricane Katrina struck. Organizations stepped up to the plate to analyze what went wrong for people with disabilities and find ways to make disaster preparedness work better.

We see change in local communities that are making plans to include people with hearing loss in their disaster plans. Communities have policies in place to accept people with disabilities, and even have plans for service dogs to remain with us when we enter mainstream shelters. We can see it on the federal level, with new material posted for people with disabilities on the FEMA website>.

See the Emergencies pages under the Advocacy Section for laws, regulations and updates to emergency alerts.

You Do Not Have to Face Hearing Loss Alone

Find Support in HLAA Chapters

  • Talk with others who have hearing loss.
  • Learn coping strategies, about advocacy and the laws that protect you, and find out about local resources.
  • Learn about the latest technology – hearing aids, phones, cochlear implants, captioning, hearing assistive technology, and more – all to help you live well with hearing loss.
  • See how a hearing-friendly environment works to help you with your hearing loss.
Join the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA)

When you join HLAA you support the work that benefits the 48 million people with hearing loss in the United States. That includes you or someone you know.