People with hearing loss explain what others can do to help.
In the first week of March we celebrate World Hearing Day 2018, which aims to raise awareness of people with hearing loss around the globe.
According to the World Health Organization, 360 million people suffer from hearing loss in the world today, with more than 1 billion young people at a risk of hearing loss thanks to exposure to loud sounds.
The theme of this year’s event is ‘hear the future’ and highlights the problem of hearing loss that many people will experience in years to come, how to stem that rise, and to ensure that people will have the right access to the aid that they may require.
In light of this, indy100 have investigated exactly what the day-to-day struggles are for people suffering from hearing loss, the stigma that comes with the disability and how others can make life easier for them.
Working with the charity Action on Hearing Loss we spoke to May Wood (hearing loss sufferer, charity volunteer), Tom Gockelen-Kozlowski (sufferer, comedian, journalist, writer), Martin Montgomery (sufferer, NHS worker) and Gemma Twitchen (Senior Audiologist at Action on Hearing Loss) and this is what they had to say.
What are some everyday obstacles that you run into because of your hearing loss? Particularly issues that people without hearing loss might not consider.
I definitely cannot multi-task unless I’m on my own, I have to stop whatever I’m doing if anyone speaks.
It freaks people out that they pass a remark and find I’ve stopped working and actually turned away from my task just to ask them to repeat something quite inconsequential!
You can tumble without anyone noticing from the life and soul of the party to someone who is apparently quite reserved. You’re not reserved, you’re really desperate to get back to the party.
If you let people know as early as possible, that you might need an extra moment because you have hearing loss, they people in social situations go out of their way to be really supportive.
Without my hearing aids, I would not hear the doorbell, smoke alarm, car alarm, TV, Radio, or any alerts around me.
Only for my safety that I have installed a specialised smoke alarm by my local authority, under the pillow at night to vibrate and wake me if this were to go off.
I also have a specialist alarm clock with a vibrating pad to wake me up in the morning.
A lot of it is common courtesy – for instance ensuring you have someone’s attention before you start speaking, as well as facing them and not covering your lips to enable better lipreading.
A common misconception is that you need to speak louder to be heard – it’s actually much better just to speak clearly, using normal lip movements and facial expressions.
Speaking too loudly not only sounds aggressive, but can be uncomfortable for a hearing aid users. Also – if someone has asked you to repeat yourself, consider rephrasing your sentence to make it clearer.
What kind of questions, judgments and comments from people without hearing loss are you bored of or frustrated by?
There is a smile that some people can give you when you’ve asked the same questions a couple of times in a busy café, bar or high street. It the kind of smile that says, ‘Mate, are you stupid or something?’ and it takes a little getting used to.
I get it that my hearing loss can interrupt the choreographed ballet of a self-service checkout, for example, but it would be nice if people thought, ‘How can I help?’ Or, ‘That guy didn’t hear that… then again the next customer is wearing glasses,’ rather than, ‘Hahahahahahaha, what a silly man.’
Belittling the guy with hearing loss is a kind of pathetic way to try raise your status.
When I have agreed on something for example, purchase of furnishings in a house I was purchasing, only for the vendor to turn round and say that I didn’t hear correctly because I had a hearing impairment.
Sometimes people can be quick to use hearing loss against me, for their gain.
In what ways can people without hearing loss make your life easier?
The short answer to what hearing people can do to make things easier for us is to get our attention first, then speak slowly and clearly.
Don’t shout and don’t exaggerate. My husband always scans my ears to check I’m wearing my aids before he starts a conversation.
In my case I have no hearing in my left hear and so if you want any chance it’s best to sit on my right.
It’s quite a simple rule and when it comes to friends, family and work colleagues I’ve been amazed at just how considerate they’ve become.
The first massive battle is telling people that you suffer hearing loss and would benefit from just a little help or consideration.
Don’t give up trying to communicate with someone with a hearing loss. You will get the message across. Remember it could be you in the same situation.
I think more deaf awareness to those with normal hearing would be invaluable. Examples of this would be video clips of those with a mild, moderate, severe or profound hearing loss.
If there’s a group of you, make an effort not to talk over one another. These simple tips can ensure that everyone can join in the conversation and not face barriers to socializing with friends and family.
Family and friends can support loved ones with hearing loss in a number of ways.
From ensuring that they’re always part of the conversation and setting a good example for others when communicating, as well as encouraging them to be open about their hearing loss to others, you can play a major role in ensuring they don’t feel isolated.
Image credit: Creative Commons
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