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Hearing Loss Strategy: Plan Ahead

Planning ahead is an important strategy for hearing loss, one we cover in our lipreading classes. It’s not just what we will wear to that event, it’s how we are going to hear. This strategy isn’t just for going out, it also works for certain chores when working with someone that requires too much distance for hearing loss communication. Planning ahead helps to reduce communication breakdowns. Notice we say “reduce”. Breakdowns happen from time to time. We are not always at our best no matter how experienced we are.

Planning Ahead at Home

Chelle: For example, trying to help install a ceiling fan with my husband last weekend. He had to go into the attic and he wanted to do it early in the morning. I couldn’t blame him, summer is here and it gets hot in the attic. However, this was before I finished my first cup of coffee. I am rarely at my best before 2 cups of coffee, let alone one. I’m not wearing my hearing aids at that time either because I like peaceful mornings. I could have put my hearing aids in before helping him but the morning caffeine hadn’t jump started my brain yet. 

Green and white background. Black font: Hearing Loss Strategy: Plan Ahead. Circular Hearing Loss LIVE! green logo of 3 leaves. Black font along the roof of an outline of the house that says: hearing obstacles. An outline of a man wearing mask near the roof inside the house with 3 questions marks above his head. An outline of a woman lower left with a dialog bubble above her saying: how can we do this differently next time?

There I was standing on the bed waiting to screw on two bolts, easy peasy!  He crawled into the attic wearing an N95 mask because insulation is not easy on the lungs. When the 2 bolts showed up, a side bracket was in the way on each side so I could not thread on the bolts. My hands got sweaty the more I tried. He’s yelling from the attic, through his mask. I barely hear his voice and can’t understand his words. I yell up at him that I’m trying and tell him the issue. It turns out, he can’t hear me very well either.  We abandon the bolts and he crawls back down into the house so we can discuss it face to face.

What might have helped: I could have put in my hearing aids but if he had a hard time hearing me, it was a far from ideal hearing situation no matter what. Also, I could have clipped my Roger On on him and put in my hearing aids. That might have helped me hear him but he had issues hearing me. Instead, we could have taken a moment to ask each other how to communicate if something goes wrong in case Murphy shows up. Murphy’s Law: Anything that can go wrong will go wrong. 

Driving

Driving is another good time to plan ahead, especially if the person with hearing loss is driving. Cars are always a challenging environment to hear in, even if we are the passengers. Mechanical hearing picks up mechanical and road noise all too well. Getting directions right while on the movie is especially hard. We all use lipreading to some degree and that’s difficult while driving not to mention unsafe. 

Are you going someplace new? Another strategy is to discuss the route before putting the car in drive. Who’s the navigator, the passenger? If we are with a passenger, they need to know that we need time to understand and process speech. Last minute directions do not typically go well for us. Give us time to process speech and then directions.  Without being able to lipread the passenger, right and light sound too much alike. 

Green and white background. Green circular Hearing Loss LIVE! logo upper left. Black front above an outline of car with two passengers: the car challenge. A dialog bubble coming from the drivers said: Thanks for planning the route with me beforehand.

Maybe using the passenger as the navigator is not the answer. Use your smartphone map instead which gives us a good visual. Sometimes the passenger wants to use their map and navigate. That puts us back in the scenario above. It’s best to use our own map and smartphone.  

A few more strategies for hearing in the car: Hand signals and gestures might work, as long as it’s not frantic. Try using your hearing aid remote companion mic. Be sure to adjust environmental/ambient noise to focus only on what’s coming from your mic, if  possible. You would find that feature in the mic and/or hearing aid app.

Phone Calls
Green and white background. Hearing Loss Strategy: Plan Ahead. A woman talking on the phone with a dialog bubble that says: I'm in a better space now so I'm calling you back.

Phone calls work best if you put a little planning into them too. Better communication happens when both people calling each other are in a quiet environment, even if captions are being used. Automatic speech recognition (ASR) hears better in quiet environments and so do live captioners. Strategies include turning off background noise like TVs and music. Don’t be double tasking, like cooking. Chopping veggies can be loud. Avoid calling from a car, even if it seems quiet to the hearing person. Being in a car with hearing loss is challenging, it’s even worse over the phone. Keep it simple and easy on the ears. 

Planning Ahead

Think about it. What can be done differently next time, in a similar situation, for a more successful outcome? Evaluate. Get feedback from the Hard of Hearing community. Get creative and make a plan. Then share what you did so others might learn from it too.

Note: If you don’t know about companion remote microphones, we have more information in this POST.

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