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Communication Access Hard of Hearing Hearing Aids Hearing Loss Hearing Technology Lipreading Personal advocacy Sensory Loss

Hearing Tests: Mixed Emotions

By Chelle Wyatt

In 30 plus years of wearing aids, I’ve never had hearing aids longer than 6 years until now. My current pair of aids are over 8 years old so this is a milestone. They might go 10 years with effort. There are minor glitches such as static on the right side until I wiggle the wire to my ear mold. They also don’t sync together, that means I have to change programs on both sides instead of one. Nothing huge but I’ve decided It’s time for new technology with more connectivity.

This involved getting a new hearing test. My last hearing test was over four years ago. I suspect there’s been some change but nothing huge. Hearing loss can be sneaky, dropping slowly therefore easily dismissed. It’s been about 15 years since I’ve had a significant drop in hearing and this too is another personal record. 

New Hearing Aids

Overall, I’m excited for the opportunity to get new hearing aids.  It’s a new adventure with new technology. I’m going to love being able to tweak programs in the app more to my liking. (I’m a bit of a control freak.) My new audiologist is hard of hearing himself. I’ve heard good things about him through my local HoH friends so he comes with recommendations.

He waved me into his office for a chat before the test. Because he’s hard of hearing, he’s good about facing me while talking. I didn’t wear my hearing aids going in, what for? They are going to come out for the hearing test anyway. I let him know. He goes on with questions about my history with hearing loss. There’s a small moment of panic as I get used to his voice and how he talks. I remind myself to wait for it, a technique we teach in our Lipreading Concept class. I catch on and it gets easier.

He asks about my last hearing test 4 ½ years ago. I forward my last audiogram to his email. He looks at it and looks back at me, “I’m really surprised you are doing so well without hearing aids” I tell him, “It’s because I’ve learned to advocate for myself and I teach lipreading classes.” 

Lipreading & Self Advocacy

Hearing loss doesn’t get better, but I “hear” better than I have in years. What gives? It was me and my ability to create healthy communication boundaries using the 3 Golden Rules. Hearing aids, cochlear implants, no hearing devices…these 3 rules have to be applied for successful communication:

Hearing aids are a great tool. I’ll never be without hearing aids as long as they help me. However, hearing aids alone haven’t gotten me where I am. It’s also taken the tribe, accommodations and being proactive. 

the Hearing Test

He uses a soundproof booth, something my last audiologist didn’t do. It feels odd getting back into one. Funny thing is, I’ve been in this very booth before. My first audiologist in Utah had this office. He retired and this new AuD bought the business. Once hooked up, he starts with the beeps. I wait…and wait. I’m picking through what is tinnitus and what are real tones. Sometimes my tinnitus mimics the beeps.

Next came the word discrimination test. It’s a computer voice, no lipreading is possible. Cowboy. Hotdog. I repeat what I hear. Those words are expected from years of previous hearing tests. Then it goes into one syllable words which are harder. Because he’s hard of hearing, he has to stop the computer voice and ask me to spell what I heard. I can tell I heard wrong because I see the corner of his eyes crinkle up into a smile above his monitor. 

Hearing in Noise Test

All these years, I’ve never had a “hearing in noise” test, abreviated as HINT. It starts with multiple people talking and at some point I’m supposed to pull in a voice that sounds closest to me and repeat what I hear. Out of 3 examples, I’m only able to figure out some words on the first test. The next two tests I couldn’t pull a word from. It blew my mind. I suck at hearing without my eyes. 

Classis ski clope loss, going rom upper left corner to the lower right corner.  The red line is just below the blue line.
You can see all the sounds of speech I miss in the upper mid to right “speech bananag” in dark blue.

After the tests are all done we go over my results. In the past, my ears have stayed about equal, the red and blue lines (for right ear and left ear) mingled and crossed as they plunge down to the profound in a classic ski slope hearing loss. This time, my left ear has only dropped a tiny bit in a few frequencies. My right ear, however, has taken its leave of the blue line. Its line now stands alone below the blue line. My word discrimination is 64% in the left ear and 40% in the right ear, with the appropriate level of amplification. “It’s a small drop in hearing.”

The 20% drop of word discrimination in one ear doesn’t hit me all at once. It’s only a little loss. True enough, I’ve had bigger drops in the past. Count myself lucky??? Plus, I have already  been dealing with the hearing loss without knowing it for probably the last six months. As I sit in the office, a few pieces of the puzzle slide together with recent incidents. 

It is a loss.

He lets me try a pair of hearing aids in the office to see what I think. I wasn’t sure so we made another appointment to try other brands. As I leave, I feel the excitement of new hearing aids. It takes a day or two for me to mull over the 20% loss of word discimination in the right. A little grief starts to settle in.

To be continued.

Even though it’s “only a little loss”, it has ramifications. I feel the loss and it shows in my day to day life. I’ll explore that in another blog soon.

Past posts that might interest you…

Did you like this blog? Read more about our Lipreading classes. These classes have made a difference in my day to day communication. We shared Vulnerability with hearing loss in this blog/podcast.

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Accessibility Advocacy ASR (Automatic Speech Recognition) Captioning CART (live captioning) Cochlear Implants Communication Practices Connections Emotions, Psychological Stress Hearing Aids Hearing Loss Live Theatre Public Advocacy Speechreading/Lipreading Uncategorized

Hearing Loss and Hearing Partners

Written by Julia Stepp

Who is responsible for communication when hearing loss is part of your family dynamics? The person with the hearing loss, right?

Let me ask you; as the hearing partner are you saying any of the following:

  • You are purposely ignoring me.
  • Turn that damn TV down!
  • Why are you yelling at me?
  • What do you mean the phone isn’t working right? I hear fine.
  • Are you serious? Do you really think I said that?
  • What do you mean you don’t want to go out with our friends on Friday nights?
  • I think you need to see the doctor, something is not right with you mentally.
  • Is it just hearing loss? Oh no biggie then. We’ll just get some hearing aids. Just stick’em on and good to go.
  • We just spent $8000 on hearing aids, what do you mean you still can’t hear me?

One that has stuck with me over the years during Hard of Hearing workshops: Your hearing loss is now our life.

Hearing loss affects every family member, especially when it comes to communication. Communication is the key to staying connected. There are many tools that can help you stay connected. Most families don’t find these tools until the connection is a struggle and everyone is beyond frustrated.. My hope is that this finds folks before the connection is damaged.

Some simple things that every hearing partner/family member can do:

  • Get involved from the beginning. There will be a period of time my friend Sue refers to as the “I’m not there yet” statement. When they’re not there yet, you can still work staying connected.
  • Stop talking from another room. This is good practice for everywhere, including your job, if you’ve gone back to the office.
  • Stop talking with food in your mouth. Ew. Just. Ew.
  • Make sure you’re facing them. This helps them use body language to fit with what is being said. It also helps you to see their facial expressions to make sure they understand what you are saying. 

The more important the conversation the better the outcome will be if you can follow these simple rules.

The list above is good practice to use with everyone, not just those with hearing loss. You can practice it over and over everywhere you go because one in five people you meet will have a hearing loss. Plus, practicing everywhere you go makes it a habit.

There is evidence that shows getting hearing aids from the onset of a hearing loss have better outcomes. BUT making someone get hearing aids so they can hear YOU will not work as well as you’d like unless you change some communication habits. You will be disappointed. When you are both ready for hearing aids, be involved. Keep the connection:

  • Go to the Audiologist with your partner. Learn what hearing aids can and cannot do. Help keep a diary of sounds and what your partner would like to hear. 
  • Find out why T-coils are important. Find out where loops have been installed to use with T-coils
  • Learn how assistive listening devices work. We all love our bluetooth, right? There are ways to use your Bluetooth with personal devices. There’s also FM systems and WiFi assistive listening options. Look for the Assistive Listening Device (ALD) symbol in venues.
  • Learn more about caption options. Apps on phones and computers, television, landlines phones, and public venues, office meetings.
  • Loops, ALDs and captions can all be used even before the person is ready for hearing aids. 
  • If certain environments are no longer doable, keep a list and brainstorm ideas on how to make it work. If Friday night is date night with friends and your local hangout is too loud, start looking for a new hang out. And if that Friday night date night is a quiet home dinner for two. That’s okay too.

And something I cannot stress enough. JOIN A SUPPORT GROUP. Support groups for hearing loss allow the person with hearing loss to connect to others with shared experience. Support groups are where hearing partners can learn how to better support hearing loss too. Don’t let the hearing loss be your life. Live life better with hearing loss. 

Another important list that has helped my family is to know signs of hearing loss. 

  • Repeating questions you have answered (them making sure they heard right)
  • “What?” A lot of whats or huhs or say that again.
  • TV is becoming louder and louder.
  • Trouble hearing on a phone.
  • Not answering questions you ask, or answering incorrectly.

I watched my grandma’s friends and family misdiagnose her as being “senile” or showing signs of “dementia.” It was during a class provided at an HLAA chapter meeting on how to recognize symptoms of dementia that helped me realize that grandma did not have dementia. She needed her hearing evaluated and more life skills to help her participate in all her extra-curricular activities

Because I decided I should go to the Audiologist with grandma, we discovered she had been using lipreading to pass her hearing tests.

Even though I knew better, five years later I misdiagnosed dementia vs hearing loss in my own spouse. (BTW, he’s not there yet. My husband may never “be there.”) He has a mild hearing loss and still lives a full life at 73. We have practiced communication skills well over 20 years. This is  thanks to the fact that I work with and have many friends with hearing loss. No one is perfect and we all slip up. Daily. However, we own it when we don’t follow the rules and move on. Usually.

Octoberfest at Snowbird this past fall.

Keep connected. Don’t let communication with hearing loss manage your life. Manage the hearing loss instead. Learn, grow and most of all LIVE your life.

PS: JOIN A SUPPORT GROUP! Find out why with us.

If you liked this post, try Hearing Small Voices because kids are hard to hearing. Also we wrote early on about Hearing Loss: Family and Communication.

(No companion podcast.)

Categories
Cochlear Implants Hearing Aids

Connecting with Hearing Aids & Cochlear Implants

by Chelle Wyatt

Hearing aids have kept me connected for 30 plus years now. They have improved a lot since I started wearing analog hearing aids, which for the most part turned everything up. I was a dedicated hearing aid user at work but once I left the salon, they came out. It was not easy wearing them as a hairdresser in bad acoustics with tons of noise.

Analog hearing aids after a full day of hearing everything in the salon.

Ten years into wearing hearing aids, I got my first pair of digital hearing aids. I loved them straight away. I could tolerate salon noise enough that I wore them after work also. It was a smooth transition for me, I was no power junkie. (Some people like the power of analog.) 

Technology keeps pace with my hearing loss, thank goodness. There’s so much more that can be done with hearing aids thanks to advances in technology. I learn all I can so I can keep myself connected to life. 

Do you know of all the options available on your hearing aids or cochlear implants?

Some people are happy with 1 or 2 programs on their hearing devices, the most common one is the restaurant/noisy setting. However, there are more options for people like me who like more control for different environments. 

  • Bluetooth – There is a setting for Bluetooth, with cell phones and other personal devices such as streamers for the TV. Bluetooth and telecoil give great sound. Most hearing devices are now Bluetooth capable. People love it when using the phone because the call goes into both ears. Note: If used a lot, Bluetooth will use your hearing aid batteries faster.
  • Telecoil/t-coil – Not all hearing aids have them but cochlear implants do. Sometimes providers might say it’s old technology. No, get one anyway and have the program turned on so you have all options. This will enable you to use a hearing loop, an assistive listening system that transmits sound from wiring in the floor to your telecoils/hearing aids. Depending on where you live, you might not have access to many hearing loops but when you do run across one, you’ll want to try it. Speech is so clear I can look down and take notes. You can also get small hearing loops for the living room to connect to your TV. *Note: T-coils do not use extra battery power.
    • If you have a telecoil & program, you can also use neckloops instead of headphones. Neckloops plug into any audio jack, the same as headphones. Headphones can make my hearing aids squeal, that noise that makes people cringe and ask what is that?! I prefer neckloops for that and the clarity.
  • Noisy Settings – The noisy settings help reduce background noise by focusing the microphones more forward, cutting off background noise. I’ve also found this program helpful in harsh acoustics cutting down the reverberation.
  • Music – We hear music differently than we do speech so this program gives us a fuller musical experience.
  • Stroll – Hearing aids can hear from all directions. This program focuses the microphones for side to side listening, such as walking next to people. Tip: I find this program especially helpful in the car where I need to hear the person next to me.
  • Tinnitus – There’s a program especially for tinnitus. Is your tinnitus distracting you in quiet environments? This program adds ocean waves, white noise, chimes and other options. Even though I’ve habituated my tinnitus many years ago, I tried this program with ocean waves. It was so soothing, I used the program when I needed to relax too. When people came into the room, I could hear them fine and the waves receded into the background. When they left, the waves came back.
  • Speech in Wind – Have you ever heard the wind coming across the cell phone when someone is talking outside in the wind. That is what it can be like for hearing aids too. This program helps cut that sound down.

There may be more options available, ask your hearing device provider. You can try one program at a time, or you can have several options, trying different programs keeping the ones you like. They are easy to put on and take off. They can also make a special program just for specific situations, ask!

Change it up.

It’s possible to change the lineup of programs. Smartphone apps are for our hearing aids make changing the program easy. I’m old school. I like having a button on my hearing aids to switch programs around as needed. Because of that, I have my programs lined up in a way that is easy for me. From the master program, I…

  • Bump up to the stroll. 
  • The next one is the telecoil program. 
  • I had the tinnitus program here for a while. 
  • Last I have noisy settings. 

When changing programs, I can go up the line or down backwards. I liked having stroll and noisy settings on either side of my master program as those are the ones I use most.

Each program can be tweaked specifically.

As an example: In my noisy setting, I had my provider take the volume down a few more notches. I have a hard time with a lot of noise. Too much noise distracts me and makes my jaw hurt (I clench my teeth). I have it on a narrow focus forward. In the beginning it was a 45 degree angle. It allowed too much noise. I wanted to be able to concentrate on the person in front me. I can turn my head to listen to others to focus on them. Each program can be tweaked to your liking. 

My 7 year old hearing aids, outdated, but still working! I couldn’t get red hearing aids so I got red molds instead. They couldn’t be made solid red so they look like Santa hats until I put them in my ears. 

Help your hearing aid provider help you.

Hearing aids come in a bundled price typically. You pay for future visits so make sure you get your money’s worth. If you don’t like the sound, go back until you do. Hearing through hearing aids will never be like normal hearing but you should be comfortable with the sound.

Keep a list of things that bother you, or where you might want more sound. Be specific. Example, I could not stand chopping vegetables on the cutting board with my hearing aids in and that’s what I told my provider. He got in the program, changed a few lines and I was better off.

Another issue of mine was sound compression. Hearing aids protect your hearing by compressing loud sounds. A Harley motorcycle went by and my hearing aids shut down completely. I waited, the motorcycle was long gone before they came back to normal. Meanwhile I missed a good chunk of conversation with my husband. My provider was able to fix this too.

Conclusion

I can talk about hearing aids for hours! Hearing aids are great and keep me from having to work so hard with lipreading. I don’t have a CI but I have many friends who do. Please share any tips about programing with cochlear implants.

If you liked this post, try InnoCaption Services, because sometimes we still need help hearing on the phone. Also try Lipreading Concepts because we all use a little lipreading even with hearing aids.

(No companion podcast.)