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Accommodations for Hearing Loss

Let’s talk about accommodations for hearing loss for Better Communication Month. May used to be known as Better Hearing and Speech Month. It’s been changed to National Speech-Language-Hearing Month, which doesn’t slide out as well as it used to. ASHA, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, recently changed the name to match theirs. Whatever we want to call it (we see others using mixed titles), May is dedicated to educating the general public about communication disorders. Hearing loss is considered a communication disorder because we lose receptive communication.

Most of the focus for hearing loss is “get a hearing aid,” or a cochlear implant. That helps but hold on a minute! It’s not just up to those of us with hearing loss to get fixed. Communication takes two. Our hearing communication family, friends and coworkers also need to change a few habits. We need to accommodate each other for real communication to happen. 

Hearing devices are a great first step, but as most of us know, we don’t get normal hearing back. That’s a misconception. We love our hearing devices, they give us more details to life but they have limits, which we wrote about last month in Unrealistic Expectations. Even with hearing devices, we also need to learn how to advocate for ourselves in day to day life. There’s technology and services available to fill gaps.

Light green, white and dark green background.
Black font: Accommodations bridge the gap for better communication outcomes.
Image: Outline of two people shaking hands in the middle of a bridge.
Under the bridge: Hearing Loss LIVE! with the 3 leaves logo.
Accommodations Definitions

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines an accommodation as an adaptation and adjustment.  Some adjustments are easy and others take time to make a habit. To adapt, we need to know what’s available.There is a wide range of accommodations to go along with our hearing loss, with our hearing aids and cochlear implants. Accommodations include strategies, technology and services like CART/live captioning. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket (hearing devices). Having several strategies and tools to choose from in situation to situation makes you more resilient.

Personal Accommodations

Do you feel funny asking people to accommodate (make adjustments) you? Do you know what to ask for? For a solid foundation, we created the 3 Golden Rules which are: Get my attention, face me and be within 6 feet. This works with hearing devices and without hearing devices. If the people in your life follow these 3 rules, you will have less communication breakdowns, less repeats and frustration between you both. 

Green background, faded to white then lighter green. A squiggly line looped once and pointing to the text from upper right and lower left.
Accommodations for hearing loss look like:
-Face me when talking.
I'm going to use my speech recognition app to make sure I understand what you are saying.
-I'd like assistive listening for this event.
-I need a transcript to understand the videos. 
@hearinglosslive
Hearing Loss LIVE! logo of 3 green leaves. The bigger leaf to the left has a spiral to symbolize the cochlea.

Because we have hearing loss, we depend on the visual elements of communication. Whether we consciously know it or not, we are constantly looking for visual cues. 

To hear/see better, get closer, turn on the lights and/or trade seats. Those are minor accommodations you can ask for. 

Do you want to know more about the visual aspects of communication? Would you like to learn how to better advocate for yourself? Take our June 1st, Super Saturday Lipreading Concepts class. (It’s all about using different strategies and tools.) Get a 3 hour crash course on setting your stage for easier communication. Empower yourself with more know-how and build your confidence. Read more HERE.

Other personal accommodations: Text me instead of calling. Can you send me an email with all the information? Can we turn the captions on so I can fully enjoy the tv show too? How about we turn off the car radio while we are talking?

Personal Accommodations via Technology

Do you know why we struggle to hear on the phone? We don’t have visual cues. It’s a faceless voice. If it’s a video call, it’s a lot easier to ‘hear’, as long as we can see the other person’s face. Technology is keeping pace with us and we have more tools than ever. If you have a smartphone, there are several apps to caption your phone calls. We have a post on that HERE which includes helpful apps. In that post, we also talk about automatic speech recognition (ASR) apps that caption in person conversations as well. 

Hearing aid/cochlear implant companion mics are also a great accommodation. They are small devices that pair to your hearing aids/CI giving you more flexibility. Hearing devices work best within 6 feet, right? Companion mics extend the distance and also give you more clarity in noisy situations. Give it to someone to wear at a lecture. Attach it to your travel mate in the car. Use it in a restaurant. It’s not perfect, nothing is, but they are helpful. Do not let an audiologist tell you that you don’t need it. They come in handy in a variety of situations. Read more HERE.

How about alerting devices? There are alarm clocks that shake your bed to wake you up. Systems that will alert you to doorbells, fire alarms, weather warnings and more. Check out either Diglo or Teltex to learn more. Both places offer several accommodations for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. Accommodations help us worry less about what we are missing.

Public Accommodations

Our hearing devices work best within 6 feet. How does that work in public venues? It doesn’t always work well, especially as hearing loss progresses. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has requirements for “Effective Communication”.  Choices include assistive listening systems, captions, interpreters and more. This includes movie theaters, live theater, sporting events and more. There are requirements for schools and hospitals as well. 

Faded green and white background.
Black font: One size doesn't fit all. Try different strategies and tools to see what works best for you.
Image: A circle with a question mark under a line with 4 circles coming up from the line. The first 3 circles hold an X, the last one has a checkmark.
Black font: Also, different stratgies and tools fit different situations. It's good to know your options.
Green hearing loss live logo lower left. 
@hearinglosslive to the right
Accommodations are Everywhere!

Experiment with new strategies and tools until you find what works best for you. Explore different ways to request accommodation until you find what works best. Try it all, discard what doesn’t work for you. Accommodations improve our communication outcomes. They give us access, helping us to participate which allows us to stay active. The more you know, the more you grow…and so does the general public’s knowledge which we desperately need. 

“Alone we can do so little. Together we can do so much.” Helen Keller

One reply on “Accommodations for Hearing Loss”

Thank you so much for your wonderful articles. They are chock full of important information. I greatly appreciate your advocacy.
Sorry, I couldn’t make last night’s meeting, but I had visitors over.
Hope to see you next month.

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