Categories
Communication Access Hard of Hearing Hearing Loss Hearing Technology

Gifts for the Hard of Hearing

Gifts of inclusion go straight to the heart. There’s a variety of ways you can support your Hard of Hearing (HoH) loved one, many of which do not cost money. There are some that cost money and also find a special place in the heart. Following are some gift ideas for those in your family with hearing loss.

*Note: We don’t have business agreements with the following companies. We have experience with their products, or have heard good things from others.

Julia: What better gift to give your HoH than the gift of better communication. Join our Lipreading Concept Class. This is a great class you can take together for only $50. This class helps you understand how your HoH hears…and why he/she doesn’t at times. Are your outings now limited because of hearing loss? If you wonder why those really expensive hearing aids don’t work, as you thought they would, then this class is for YOU! Learn how the three golden rules apply to everyday lipreading and how you can have better control of the collateral damage that comes with hearing loss.

Gifts from the Heart

As a hearing partner, a good gift for Hard of Hearing people come from the heart. I recommend getting involved with their hearing loss journey. 

  • Attend local support group meetings. 
  • Attend our workshops. Listen to our podcasts. 
  • Go to the next audiology appointment with them. Together, hold your favorite TV station accountable for quality captions, together. 

If you are already season ticket holders for local theater, send an email and ask about open caption performances. Quality captions are for everybody. You can find more about live theater captioning from these blog posts:

  1. Salt Lake Acting Company – They tell us how they applied for grants for accessibility. You can suggest this podcast to your local theater.
  2. Open Captioned Live Theater – We talked with Vicki Turner who does a lot of open captioning for theaters in different parts of the country.

Download an ASR (automatic speech recognition) app, also called transcription. There’s a variety to choose from these days and most have free trials. Then, start using it together. Introduce the app to others, like friends and family. 

Help your HoH get a caption app for the phone calls too. InnoCaption has different options for smartphone use. (We did a podcast with them too.) Check into it. Try it. You might like it.

Chelle & Julia making plans for 2023
A Living Room Loop

Chelle: Several years ago, my husband bought me a living room hearing loop and added it to the TV. Hearing aids need a telecoil for a hearing loop, make sure you have a dedicated telecoil program in the hearing aids.  Once the loop is connected, walk into the hearing loop and turn on the telecoil program. It offers great sound going through my hearing aids which are programmed specifically for my hearing loss. 

We have the Oval Window Microloop III ($200).  My husband liked this because it was made in America. Test your intended loop area before buying by walking around in the telecoil program. If there’s a hum, there may be magnetic interference in your house. A light hum might be ignored depending on the person. If it’s loud, this may not be a good option. 

Wi-Fi based Listen Everywhere

We did a podcast with Listen Technologies about their new wi-fi based system, Listen Everywhere. This is a public option rather than a private option but it can work at home too. I have one hooked up to my TV. I do not currently have a Bluetooth option with my hearing aids (they are 8 years old) so I use a neckloop in conjunction with my smartphone/tablet. (I’m still using my telecoil program.) This listening system makes me want to get new hearing aids with Bluetooth. 

This requires wi-fi, a smartphone or tablet, and the Listen Everywhere app. This is a pricey system at around $1,000. Again, this is more of a public option meaning many people can use it at the same time. My kids used it with earbuds and were happy with the sound. I’m looking forward to this system being available in public spaces. The cool thing about this system is I can wander all over the house and still receive sound. 

Is tinnitus an issue?

Once I start talking about tinnitus, my own comes to the forefront. Tinnitus can wreck sleep and ruin quiet environments. Here’s a few ideas for tinnitus:

  • SleepStream2: This app has all kinds of environmental sounds to choose from, the water section is my favorite though I like the rain too. You can add background music and control the volume of each sound feature. The app is free, there are in-app purchases.
  • I have heard good things about the ReSound Tinnitus Relief app. It’s a free download with add ons so you can give that a try. (I have not tried this yet myself. If you have, tell us your thoughs.)

Tinnitus can disrupt our lives suddenly and horribly. It can cause depression, anxiety and even suicidal thoughts for some. Because many veterans were coming home with tinnitus, the Veterans Affairs created a workbook to help people habituate tinnitus, How to Manage Your Tinnitus: A Step-by-Step Workbook.  I understand the book is free to veterans. It is available in PDF format for free on their website (it’s a big file). I see it’s for sale on eBay and other places for $30 – $80. The workbook has 2 cds that come with it. 

When I worked for the Utah Hard of Hearing Program, I gave tinnitus presentations once a year. We researched tinnitus solutions for those who have no hearing also. If you want to contact me, I’ll be happy to talk more about tinnitus with you. 

Conclusion: Hearing loss is a communication disorder. When we can’t hear, we lose communication. Give the gift of hearing and support when possible. 

View the companion podcast here.

If you liked this blog, check out: 

National Small Business Day

It’s National Small Business Day November 26th. Give the Gift of better communication. We have a two for one special going on our Lipreading Concepts class and our new Lip Shapes LIVE! class. Take the class and bring a family member with you to help them better understand Hard of Hearing Communication needs. Registration opens soon. 

If you like our content, Buy Us a Cup of Coffee! This helps us to keep content free for those in need. 

Categories
Communication Practices Communication with Family Hard of Hearing Hearing Loss

Communication with Family, Friends & Coworkers

All too often the person with hearing loss takes on the sole responsibility of communication. It is a heavy burden… and it’s not realistic. Everyone has miscommunication issues at times. It takes two to make communication happen, even if it’s two hearing people, one person with hearing loss and a hearing person or two hard of hearing people. All people have to do their part; at home, at work and out in public.

“Go get hearing aids and everything will be fine.” Ummm…yes they will help but no, they don’t solve the whole problem with hearing loss. Hearing aids & cochlear implants help but they do not give us natural hearing abilities. Even with our hearing devices, changes are needed on both sides for proper communication to happen. If our hearing family, friends and coworkers don’t do their part, we cannot do our part

3 Golden Rules

  1. Get the person’s attention with hearing loss before talking. 
  2. Face them the whole time while talking.
  3. Be within 6 feet for line of sight and a direct line of hearing.

Why? Even if we don’t know it, we all lipread to some degree. It gives us a second to shift gears and focus. Our hearing devices have limits, they aren’t called ‘hearing miracles’ for a reason. Using these 3 rules as a healthy communication boundary will create new communication habits and they will reduce everyone’s frustration. 

Communication rules for rough patches.

Julia: My husband has a mild hearing loss. In recent months it’s become a little more obvious. Just the other day it became apparent that my youngest may have to go to the audiologist soon. He is 22 and odds are his insurance will not cover hearing aids so I am unsure what this will even look like. Luckily, we have practiced the three golden rules for many, many years. Though neither have hearing aids, yet, our communication rules have helped us through rough patches.

Julia and family.

Here is what I want to make folks understand, why I get all up in everybody’s jammy, to get in the know. 

Hearing loss or dementia???

My husband is 20 years older than me. One day seven or so years ago, he started showing what I thought were signs of early onset dementia. He was asking me the same questions over and over, questions that had nothing to do with what we were talking about. He had trouble understanding others while on his cell phone but instead of saying I didn’t hear you, he went silent or made excuses on why he didn’t respond. Anger was quick when he didn’t understand or if he answered wrong. This left me questioning what he could and couldn’t comprehend. There were a lot of blank stares when I asked him questions.

By coincidence, around the same time I captioned an event at our local HLAA Chapter that was about knowing the difference between hearing loss and dementia. WOW. The light bulb went off!!! I went from stressing over where I would place him if I could no longer take care of him, to researching Bluetooth options at home to help him hear. 

Here’s the deal…

Odds are, he isn’t going to get hearing aids any time soon (as I said at least seven years plus folks) and I’m not going to make him without him being ready first. His hearing loss is still mild. With Medicare now helping pay for hearing aids, and over the counter, I know we have options. And because I have worked closely with my HoH relations in Utah I know most of the Audiologists and who we will go to when he’s ready.

Here’s what I think I’m getting at. Hearing aids or no hearing aids, hearing loss is about communication changes. Hearing partners have got to do their part. If they don’t, misunderstandings set in. Anger drives the misunderstanding and up goes the collateral damage for both parties. Practice the 3 golden rules everywhere. I am here to tell you to practice it with:

  • Your kids, young and old
  • Your grandkids
  • Your coworkers 
  • Your parents
  • Your significant other

It will become a habit. 

Practice, practice, practice!

Chelle: I brought my husband to work to talk about communication in our relationship. Julia, Ken and I talk about what it means to have someone with hearing loss in the family on our podcast. He explains the grief he feels losing casual conversation. You can watch, or listen to, our podcast to find how we deal with miscommunication. No one is perfect, including us.  

Focus on progess, not perfection.

Over the years, I’ve helped many people become aware of hard of hearing communication needs.  My mom listened. She learned and she recognizes the signs of hearing loss. She now helps others understand hearing loss. 

Earlier this week, she told me about going to a lab for blood work. The staff all wear masks. There was an older lady who couldn’t understand what the staff was telling her. My mom told her friend, “She can’t understand because they have masks on.” Her friend wanted to know what difference that made. My mom replied, “She lipreads and can’t see what they are saying, like Chelle.” Later in the elevator, that lady confessed to my mom’s friend that she indeed uses lipreading. (Mask also taught many of us how much we rely on lipreading.) 

Chelle and family

Luckily my whole family is accommodating. As I learned more about hearing loss, like how I heard…what made it difficult…hearing aids had limits and more; those closest to me understood more. I shared my  journey with them through blogging, breaking down my HoH moments. My parents, my boyfriend (now husband) and more read them. I talked and talked. I’m still talking! Make your family a part of the solution when having problems. If there was a communication breakdown, ask them to help you find a solution. 

Share your journey. Help people become aware. Educate yourself. Introduce hearing loss in a conversation. One in five people have a hearing loss so chances are they have someone in their family with hearing loss. Or they know someone at work with hearing loss. Our conversations make a difference.

Share the 3 Golden Rules

Use the golden rules. Let’s get the word out so more people understand our communication needs. We aren’t just helping ourselves, we are helping all others who come after us.

Feel free to use this meme.

Did you like this blog?

You might like Hearing Loss: Family and Communication.  You  might also want to check out Finding Your Tribe. Good ideas come from those who have already walked the walk. 

If you like our information, Buy us a Cup of Coffee. Phase one of our business is completed. Most of our content is free to help those in need; podcasts, blogs, workshops, presentations and more. We will keep these things free because we are passionate about people becoming more successful with their hearing loss.

Phase two begins. We are currently crowdfunding through Buy Me a Cup of Coffee. This will get our feet beneath us. Starting in January 2023 we will continue our Lipreading Concepts class for which there is a small fee. We are adding a Lip Shapes class. We are excited to add sensitivity training to our services as there is a huge need for the public at large to understand HoH communication needs. Employees and clients with hearing loss are misunderstood. We led a training last year with the Women’s Business Center which successfully cleared up misconceptions.

Categories
Accessibility CART (live captioning) Communication Access Hard of Hearing Hearing Loss Public Advocacy Speech to Text Captions

Quality Captions

With the Global Alliance of Speech to Text Quality Caption Task Force

Our guests today are:

  • Sebrina Crosby, CRC. Sebrina is a Realtime CART Captioner and owner of Access Captioning, LLC
  • Kimberly Shea, NCSP, CRC. Kimberley is a realtime broadcast/CART captioner and she is the President of Breaking Barriers Captioning Services, LLC.

Serbina and Kimberly volunteer with Global Alliance Speech to Text with the Quality Caption Task Force

Captions are our access to television. Without captions, we have to make up our own stories with what we see. We did a podcast with Liza Sylvestre early this year, an artist who uses her hearing loss in her art. Her project “Captioned” is a good example of what we do without captions. Captions are our language. Quality captions matter. Don’t make us guess, especially when the information is important.  

Kimberly and Serbrina are especially busy lately with captioning so we are appreciative of the time they spent with us. In our current podcast, they talk to us about quality captions and their upcoming project which will improve captions…and they need our help.

Captions Matter

Chelle: This is how bad  my hearing is – I’ll be watching a movie and reading the captions as usual. My husband will come in and ask me why I’m watching a movie in a foreign language. I had no idea they were speaking a foreign language. To me, all dialog on the TV comes across garbled. I cannot watch TV without captions.

Captions are our access to communication.

My husband likes to watch the news. I read the captions. When the news goes live on certain channels, there’s no captions which completely leaves me out. I get up and leave the room, it’s not inclusive. Sometimes, the captions are so far behind during certain live shows, I can’t  get the full transcript before commercials come up and I lose the last little bit. This is when I use my wifi based assistive listening system from my good friends at Listen Tech. When the show is live, they generally face the camera so I can use lipreading too. The captions become backup.

Captions Sometimes Lag Far Behind

During our October Talk About It Tuesday monthly chat, someone else brought up television captions and the lag. This can be a technology issue, Julia explained. Sometimes it’s captioning going through different kinds of technology before it’s presented on the TV. It can be the cable box. There’s no real criteria for consistency between TV stations and our televisions. For no captions, someone at the TV station probably forgot to flip a switch. 

Saturday Night Live captions lag far behind. It’s frustrating.

We can make a difference

Serbrina tells us during the podcast, we can make a difference in our own cities by staying on top of our local TV stations. There are pockets of stations in the USA who do a good job with captions, even though they aren’t in the top 25. (The top 25 have to have live captioners.) It’s because the Hard of Hearing and Deaf community members are actively contacting the stations about caption issues. 

Last weekend, I had a friend approach me about a recent Utah governor’s address on TV not being captioned. She and her husband have started to use captions more often.  She said they had an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter but there were no captions. Why, she wanted to know. The Deaf community have been more firm with their communication needs than we have. We can learn from them.

Follow Up

We need to follow up with the TV stations who are not providing captions. Each station has a caption assistance page (it’s the law to have captions). I keep my most watched local TV station’s “caption assistance” pages on my phone. We can call them, email them or fill out their contact page. I’ve let stations know what the problem is and I’ve also complimented another station on providing great captions. When it’s a glaring problem, I get on my local HLAA email list and tell others to tune in and write to the TV station too. I told her next time she sees something like that, let me know and I’ll spread the word. Sebrina is right, the more of us who do this, the better captioning we get. 

Hearing Parnters Can Help

Julia: Quality captions help everyone. If you’re a hearing partner, odds are the captions are on all the time. I know at our house they are. My guess is that you are using the captions more than you realize. I do. When they are poor quality, whether the program is live or pre-recorded, it’s distracting and it drives me nuts!

But, as a hearing partner you just have to put up with it, right? Wrong.

I encourage everyone (HoHs, hearing partners, ANYONE who uses TV captioning) at home, in a bar or restaurant, at work…ANYONE who may want to use or needs to use captions at a future date, (come on now hearing loss can happen to anyone) to get involved. When local stations hear from their local viewers they take note. 

During a local news broadcast you might even see an advertisement about a local store who is credited for sponsoring the closed captions. Drop by that local store and let them know captions matter and let them know if it’s quality captions that they are sponsoring. 

Change happens when we speak up together. 

Call to Action!

Kimberly Shea: “The first place we need to start is making a record. We will gather video data and samples from all over the country. The Task Force will evaluate each video against a metric system that is designed for captioning. This will address the quality, and the usability of captions for consumers. This has never been done before.”

Global Alliance will have a call to action soon and you will see Hearing Loss LIVE! sharing it. 

The more of us with hearing loss helping, the better captioning will get. 

Join Global Alliance Speech to Text. Together we make a difference.

Did you like this blog? Check out the podcast we did with Jen Schuck of Global Alliance earlier this past spring.   

Join our twice a month newsletter by registering on our events page. (Scroll down a bit.)

Help us spread the word! Please share with us on social media. We are on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Reddit. Share our blogs, podcasts with friends and family so they too understand hearing loss better. (Our podcasts are available on  many podcast platforms. Search Hearing Loss Live.)

We have been bootstrapping it, starting Hearing Loss LIVE! from scratch. We keep many of our services free to those in need. Our paid services are building and we will be offering more classes soon. Until we are completely on our feet, you can support us at Buy Me a Coffee and by joining Patreon

Categories
Communication Practices Emotions, Psychological Stress Hard of Hearing Hearing Loss Mental Health & Hearing Loss Personal advocacy

Hearing Loss and Collateral Damage

With Gloria Pelletier, LCSW, LISAC

Hearing Loss LIVE! teams up with Gloria Pelletier to take another look at the mental health side of hearing loss.

Collateral Damage Definition: Injury inflicted on something other than an intended target.

How does collateral damage apply to hearing loss? 

Hearing loss hurts us in unknown ways. It also unintentionally affects the hearing people in our lives. This is especially so when we are not upfront about our hearing loss. 

A smiling white lady with long silvery hair.
Gloria Pelletier

Gloria: “Collateral Damage” is a term I first heard in The Veterans Administration when I worked there as a social worker.  Our Veterans are trained NOT to have collateral damage. Not to kill those other than the intended target. 

How does it apply to hearing loss?

Chelle and I were talking about how often those around us do NOT modify their behavior to help us hear.  I got a real eye opener when I spoke to Chelle with my back turned to her, then later she spoke to me with her back to me.  We were laughing because here are two educated individuals on hearing loss doing EXACTLY what we tell our family NOT to do. Since neither one of us lives with another person with hearing loss we are used to speaking to hearing people, making the same mistakes they make.  

Loss of Casual Conversation

It seems so simple to ask for our family and friends to accommodate our hearing loss. It didn’t make sense to me why they did not or refused to. After my afternoon with Chelle making the same mistakes it became apparent to me that modifying one’s behavior takes thought, focus and perseverance. Too many times we think communication is easy and we don’t need help in learning to communicate. We have been speaking since infancy!  

Speaking and communicating are two vastly different concepts. In order for me to communicate with you, for us to have a two way conversation; I am going to need some modifications.  When I am not honest about those needs I essentially make sure you cannot effectively communicate with me. This is collateral damage.  

Bluffing does no one any good.

Our hearing partners have no concept of our needs so they continue on speaking to us as if they are having a casual conversation.  When I nod my head as though I understand. I have denied my communication partner true access to me. (This is collateral damage.)  I have made an unilateral decision NOT to communicate in a clear and understandable way.  

I did not ask the other person if they were OK with that, I decided my personal issue was more important than their ability to communicate with me. By being very clear and upfront with our conversation needs, we are truly communicating with someone and being respectful of their right to communicate with me. I have given them the tools to be successful. The environment may need to be modified but we BOTH agree on how that is done.

Another example of collateral damage: I watched a man dominate a group of people with his hearing loss. He complained he couldn’t hear, that he needed a one to one conversation.  He insisted the whole group accommodate his hearing loss. That in of itself is not a problem. 

What was the problem? 

He did not give the group information on how to communicate with him so he could successfully integrate into the group.  His own frustration with communication and lack of knowledge about his own needs created a strained group dynamic. (This is collateral damage.)  I watched the whole thing unfold, an unwilling participant to this dynamic.  He was angry, frustrated and demanding that others communicate with him without consideration for their ignorance on how to do that.  (More collateral damage.)   

When HOH folks are more proactive, a clear statement of accommodations alivates all the stress in the group. We then can have good communication and relationships with others on terms we can function in.  It is OUR responsibility to be proactive with our needs and to give others the information they need so communication becomes accessible. 

Hearing Loss has unintended bombs

Chelle:  When Gloria introduced this topic, she had to explain it to me. Collateral damage??? Once I understood, I could see the silent ‘bombs’ that go off beind us. Boom…Boom!!

With my first pair of hearing aids fitted and adjusted, they told me I would hear a lot better. That wasn’t the case. I don’t think they realized how noisy hair salons were. Some of the collateral damage I remember coworkers was:

  • Are your ears in?
  • Turn up your hearing aids!

I couldn’t combat these hurtful remarks. I felt ashamed because I wasn’t living up to the standard. I retreated further in my shell.

Hiding hearing loss has consequences.

Back then, I was not honest about my hearing loss, I hid it because of that shame. People would try to talk to me when I wasn’t looking and I’d walk by without acknowledging them. They didn’t know about my hearing loss so I was considered rude & a snob for several years. (Boom!)

There were also ‘friends’ who liked to have fun with my hearing loss. While out gambling in a casino (loud music, slot machine background noise) some guy was showing interest in me and I was unaware playing video poker. My hearing friends told him to ask me for something ‘unsavory’ for a little fun. I heard him talking, looked up, he asked and bluffed, nodding my head. (Boom!)  That taught me to ask for repeats no matter what.

What else changed?

After 18 years and a big hearing drop, I educated myself. Thanks to the SayWhatClub and our local HLAA chapter I learned healthier communication strategies from my fellow peers. I learned how to reply to those comments above too. My answers are:

  • Are your ears in? Yes they are. They don’t work well in noisy environments. You need to get my attention before talking for less repeats. 
  • Turn up your hearing aids! With my hearing loss, it’s not volume so much as it is clarity. Hearing aids aren’t called hearing miracles for a reason. They help but they don’t replace true hearing. Please face me while talking, that helps a lot. 
A white lady on a snow mountain side in black ski clothes. She has a pink ski hat on with goggles raised up on her head.
While skiing, collateral damage would be other people assuming I can hear them saying “To your right” or “To your left” as they ski past. That’s a fear of mine. – Chelle

Hearing Partners Experience the Loss Too

Julia: “Emotional side of hearing loss” is a catch-all phrase, and there’s a lot that goes under that umbrella. Collateral damage fits in there with grief, and other feelings.

Hearing partners experience collateral damage too. It was the day we were hurt because we knew the person bluffed. It was the day we realized we could no longer whisper sweet nothings in our partner’s ear. It was the day casual conversations in the car disappeared. It was the day we struggled communicating our message during a phone call.

During our podcast, it dawned on me that the largest piece of collateral damage that happens with hearing loss is watching our elders mishandle it. 

Anger and Impatience

Our behaviors, good and bad, are contagious…

  • As a hearing person and I am modeling anger and impatience with hearing loss, I encourage others to do the same. 
  • If I am refusing to work towards productive change, I’m encouraging the same behavior. 
  • If I show impatience waiting for you to hear/understand, because it takes you a minute to hear… 

If I do this, I show others that hearing loss is a hassle. Here is more collateral damage.

Two white ladies, one younger and the other older. The younger lady with light brown hair pulled back is smiling and focusing on the camer. The older white haired lady is smiling and more relaxed. Palm trees int he background.
Thanks to being involved with the HoH community, Julia knew how to help her gma with communication needs.

As hearing partners, we can change this pattern. Let’s start working together with communication needs to have better relationship outcomes. Let’s find healthier ways to learn from the past. Collateral damage will happen. You can’t stop it. But we can minimize the damage. We can acknowledge the harm and work together for better experiences.

Above all else, let’s continue to look under the umbrella that I call the emotional side of hearing loss. Together we can create a community. With a community, we can bring about change. With change, we can create better understanding around hearing loss.

For those with hearing loss, help us help you. Disclose your communication needs. Let your friends and family know. Let your coworkers know because a lot of collateral damage happens there too. Trust this next step in life with hearing loss so we can all do our part. 

Own Your Hearing Loss

Michele: I hate to say it, but the Hard of Hearing often create a lot of problems for themselves by not owning their hearing loss or continuing in denial.

The back of a silver haired lady sitting at a desk with two computers. It's an online meeting on one of the computers.
Michele giving a presentation on being proactive while traveling with hearing loss.

While doing research into how to get audiologists on board with empowering patients, I connected with an audiologist practicing patient-centered care who found it a hard question to answer. They went on to explain their frustrations in dealing with patients every day who are fighting the stigma of hearing loss and are hesitant to move forward with even the most discreet hearing aids. I was surprised to learn that it is pretty rare to have patients who are accepting of their hearing loss, good self advocates, and emboldened to share their struggle with their friends and family. Collateral damage cuts many ways.


When we are not proactive in dealing with our hearing loss, we set the stage for collateral damage. The best thing we can do for ourselves, our family members, friends and all others we encounter in life is to learn how to tell them exactly what they need to know about our hearing loss and our communication needs. Not everyone we tell will do their part, but when we do our part we plant the seed for all of us to do better. 

Podcasts

Watch our companion podcast on our YouTube channel with captions. You can also find us on several podcast platforms (BuzzSprout with a transcript, Spotify, iHeartRadio and more) by searching Hearing Loss Live.

Other posts/podcasts you might enjoy…

If you liked this blog post, check out our other collaboration with Gloria,  Mental Health Myths in Treating Hard of Hearing Clients. Another good one might be our Vulnerability post. Disclosing our hearing loss and communication needs can be scary but it’s how we grow.  

Join Our Twice a Month Newsletter

We have a twice a month newsletter. We add tips on being proactive with hearing loss with experiments for you to try in daily life. You can sign up for our newsletter on our events page, scroll down a bit.

Help US Grow

If you enjoy our content and find it helpful, share it on social media. Or, consider donating so that we can keep going until our services are better established. Here’s our QR code.

Categories
Advocacy Hard of Hearing Hearing Loss Self Advocacy

Proactive with Hearing Loss

Do you manage your hearing loss? Or does it manage your life?

Many people with hearing loss tend to be passive which leads to isolation. We miss out on opportunties and it interrupts our relationships. When we lean too heavily on others to hear for us, we lose ourselves. We end up reactive.

Today we take a look at being proactive with hearing loss. Find out how to manage your hearing loss so you find yourself again.

Michele: Many Hard of Hearing people are constantly on high alert, waiting to react when their hearing or devices fail them. Hypervigilance is part of what makes hearing loss so exhausting, but there’s a better way; choosing to be proactive.

I look at being proactive as taking charge; actively deciding not to wait to react. These are the steps I used to do that:

  • Educated myself about my hearing loss and the tools, technology, techniques and accommodations that would help me communicate better.
  • Defined my needs through experimentation.
  • Developed effective ways to tell others what they need to know about my hearing loss and communication needs.
  • Practiced to find what works best in each situation.
  • Embraced flexibility: When one thing didn’t work, I tried something else.

The shift in energy, from being on high alert to being proactive, really does improve your life and takes the anxiety out of functioning in a world not made for people with hearing loss. By choosing to act first, you’re in control of the way things will go.

An Example

At the start of the pandemic, I had someone contact me to ask how I would have handled going to a new restaurant where you order at the counter:

Problem: The cashier taking orders was behind plexiglass and was wearing a thick black mask. I wasn’t sure how to order, but knew I wouldn’t hear anything, so I asked for a printed menu to point to what I wanted, but they didn’t have one. I gave the combo number I wanted and the cashier kept asking me questions which forced me to tell them I couldn’t hear. They were trying to be accommodating and were kind, but I don’t even know how to help myself; I was having so much trouble trying to understand I almost burst into tears and wanted to leave.

My advice: Actively practice being proactive.

Solution: I always carry a pen and paper with me, and I premise things by speaking first and telling people behind counters that I’m not going to hear them with a mask because I lipread. So if they have a question I’m going to need them to write to me. 

I also often use Otter and Ava (automatic speech recognition apps) on my phone and I enable apps well before I get to the counter to order or check out.

Michele, phone out ready to use ASR as needed.

The next time you find yourself in a similar situation, say what’s true upfront (what you just told me), “I am new to this restaurant and have no idea how to order. However, I’m not going to hear you with masks, because I’m a lipreader (have hearing loss, am hard of hearing, etc.), so I’m going to need you to write to me.”

Go back to this same restaurant and practice until you are comfortable. Set it up and leave nothing to chance.

Yes, that’s what being proactive means. Taking charge and leaving as little as possible to chance.

Chelle: You’ve heard it as self-advocacy…that sounds like too much work and it reminds us of changing laws. We’ve also called it being assertive. Assertive often shows up side by side with ‘aggressive’ so I think assertive gets a bad rap. That’s why I settled on ‘proactive’ recently. It has a nice ring to it. We can be proactive with our hearing loss.

Reactive

Reactive is the opposite of proactive. When we are reactive we get flustered, upset and isolated. Here are some of my past reactive situations.

  • Went to a banquet dinner and sat in the back with my husband and his friends. Couldn’t understand anyone so went to hide in another room.
  • Faked my way through many conversations because the speaker turned away, it was too noisy or I couldn’t lipread them.
  • Stayed home instead of going out. It was too hard to socialize, especially in groups. 
  • Sit wherever the host puts me in a restaurant. 
Proactive

When we are proactive, we are managing situations as they come. 

  • Here’s a proactive statement I use when meeting new people or talking to strangers such as grocery store clerks: “I hear enough to know you are talking but unless you are facing me, I won’t understand you. I use some lipreading.”
  • I’m proactive in attending captioned plays showing support for the wonderful accommodation that keeps me, and others, participating in public. I also try to support any hearing loss related event because not enough people show up.
  • I’m proactive in restaurants, asking for booths or going to quieter areas so I’m not struggling as much to hear conversation. I’m looking at lighting too. I’ll ask to switch seats with people if they are backlit making it harder to lipread. 
  • When going into public venues, I’ll ask about assistive listening devices. If there are issues, I’ll let them know so the next person who comes in won’t have the same issue.
  • Some events I’ll show up early to get my preferred seating. I’ll also let the person doing the talking know what I need for better communication. I’ve taped FM systems to microphones to help me hear better.
  • Sometimes, it’s been leaving meetings or events when there are no accommodations. 
Chelle, proactive about hearing on a train tour recently. See our social media for more on this.

Those are some of the ways I manage my hearing loss. Life got a lot easier when I started managing my communication. So many people don’t know how to talk to us. When I help them help me, it also helps those who come after me.

Hearing Partners

Julia: Hearing partners can be more proactive by being involved.  Learn your partner’s hearing loss truth. Learn how you can support them so that the changes have positive outcomes. Because I guarantee you, hearing loss affects both parties. 

Don’t take over, don’t be their hearing human. Don’t decide what they can and can’t do with the hearing loss. Why? If this is not already in your family dynamics, you will be angry and resentful. If this is your family dynamics you will be even more angry and resentful. Ignorance is not bliss. You have got to work together. When you have knowledge as the hearing partner it will save heartache and hurtful words.

Medical Settings?

You can be proactive by learning when it might be an appropriate time to help interpret a conversation. Do not have the conversation for them. Only help when clarity is needed.  FYI, medical setting and interpreting should be a hard fast NO. I know there may be exceptions to my saying that, but short of an ER visit don’t, just don’t. Instead, help them advocate for captions so they can actively particapate in their care as appropriate.

You can be proactive by asking businesses and event centers to install and use ALD equipment. Keep an eye out for the ALD symbols with with them. Learn the difference between live human captions (cite AF) and automated speech recognition and where each is helpful. Never settle. Communications may look one way for a long time and overnight be something new. Know it all and continue to educate yourself and others. Some day they may need the knowledge. 

Assistive Listening Symbol

Be proactive with your communication outcomes before hearing loss becomes a problem. Not when you are desparate and you’re pissed off about the hearing loss.

  • Stop talking from different rooms now. 
  • Start facing each other for better understanding. Learn how to gesture.
  • Use a ASR app for notetaking.
Don’t wait for it, learn to be proactive now.

All of this and more can be found in our Lipreading Concept Class. Together we can change the look and stigma behind hearing loss.

Podcasts Available

Watch our companion podcast on our YouTube channel with captions. You can also find us on several audio podcast platforms (BuzzSprout with a transcript, Spotify, iHeartRadio and more) by searching Hearing Loss Live.

If you liked this blog post, try Workplace Accommodations, Hospital Communication, and/or Get Out of Your Own Way.

We have a twice a month newsletter. We add tips on being proactive with hearing loss and a challenge. You can sign up for our newsletter on our events page, scroll down a bit.

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