Living with Hearing Loss: Developing a Comprehensive Communication Strategy (Part 2 Continued)

By Dr. Noël Crosby, Au.D. –

Living with Hearing LossLast month we began our discussion of various treatment options available for those with hearing loss.  We reviewed the advances that have been made in today’s hearing aids and the benefits of many technologically-advanced features. This month I continue with a review of other treatment options, specifically, assistive listening devices and brain retraining.

Communication Strategies for the Listener with Hearing Loss

Step #2: Understand Treatment Options
Assistive Listening Devices In special situations (i.e. watching television or talking on the telephone) assistive listening devices (ALDs) can boost the effectiveness of a hearing aid or cochlear implant. Even those who do not wear hearing aids may discover that hearing is easier when using these devices. Some common ALDs are:

  • TV Ears. This wireless hearing system provides excellent sound quality on any television set. Its features include (1) television audio processing (TAP), which amplifies regular dialogue, hard-to-hear voices and whispers and (2) automatic volume control (AVC), which selectively compresses the loud bursts of volume that occur when commercials come on or when you are switching channels.
  • FTRI Phone Program. The Florida Telecommunications Relay, Inc., a nonprofit organization, provides special telephones for permanent Florida residents who are certified by a State-approved certifier to have a permanent hearing impairment requiring an amplification device. These FTRI telephones which include models that alert you when the phone rings, captioned telephones and telecommunications devices for the deaf (TDD/TTY ) are loaned on a long-term basis free of charge.
  • Caption Call. This is a free caption phone that is available to everyone who has a hearing loss. You must have a landline and an internet connection to be able to use this phone. Use coupon code HS1421 or call our office at 941-474-8393 and we can order this for you.
  • FM Systems/Blue Tooth. These devices are for those patients who have severe hearing loss that is not helped sufficiently by hearing aids alone. The FM system includes an external microphone or streamer, and an FM receiver. It can be used for communication in a very noisy environment, or for listening to a specific speaker whom you cannot hear very well. The Blue Tooth adaptor may also be beneficial if you have difficulty hearing when you use your cell phone.

For those motivated to improve their ability to hear by exercising their brain, studies show that these programs can be helpful in developing listening and communication skills:

Communication Strategies for the Listener with Hearing Loss

Step #1: Recognize and understand the signs and symptoms of hearing loss.

Step #2: Understand treatment options.

Step #3: Have realistic expectations.

Step #4: Make an unwavering commitment to wearing hearing aids or using assistive listening devices.

Step #5: Develop listening and speech reading skills.

Step #6: Be assertive. Take responsibility for speech comprehension by taking steps for controlling the listening environment and giving honest and direct feedback to the speaker.

Communication Strategies for Friends and Family (the Speaker)

Step #1: Stop enabling the hearing impaired listener.

Step #2: Support and encourage all efforts to get treatment.

Step #3: Develop strategies for clear speech. (voice intensity, projection, rate and clarity)

Step #4: Learn to understand and use body language.

Step #5: Remove physical barriers to speech.

  • Listening and Communication Enhancement (LACE). This is an interactive, computerized aural rehabilitation program that has already helped thousands of people who have some degree of hearing loss increase their listening skills by as much as 40 percent.
  • Save Your Hearing Now. This program, developed by ear-nose-throat specialist Michael Seidman, M.D., after many years of research, combines nutritional supplements, hearing protection and exercise in a holistic approach to preventing, and in some cases reversing, part of the damage of hearing loss.
  •  Brain HQ’s Brain Fitness Exercises, http://www.positscience.com: This computer based software program has a series of exercises designed to build a different capacity of the brain. The exercises focus on memory, attention, brain speed, people skills, intelligence and navigation. When it comes to brain fitness training, BrainHQ claims it is best in class. Built by a team of top neuroscientists, with exercises proven in dozens of published studies to make real and lasting improvements in brain function, BrainHQ is your personal brain gym.
  • Read My Quips, http://www.sensesynergy.com: This is also a computer-based program you can use at home to improve both listening and lip-reading skills. The program shows your the faces of the people you are trying to listen to, allowing you to practice your skill at playing back their words or reading their lips.
  • Hear Coach http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/hear-coach/id489515928?mt=8: This Smart Phone application provides listening games developed by Starkey Laboratories to challenge both your cognitive and auditory sharpness. Tasks like the ones in this game have been shown to help improve listening ability in noise. When people have improved listening in noise, they don’t have to work as hard to hear and can relax and participate in conversations without straining
  • Other brain training programs are also available from such sites as www.brainready.com and www.lumosity.com may be downloaded for free or for a modest price.

Communication Strategies for Friends and Family:

Step #2: Support and encourage all efforts to get treatment

When loved ones or family members express any interest in pursuing treatment, your job is to help make it happen! You can demonstrate your support in very real ways by following these tips:

1. Be honest. Tell the person with hearing loss how communicating with them makes you feel.

2. Help do research on products, payment options and insurance coverage.

3. Volunteer to go with your friend or family member to the hearing evaluation appointment. Get a hearing test yourself!

4. Seek out testimonials from others who wear hearing aids and share their success stories.

Next month: Step #3: Controlling Expectations.

PROFESSIONAL BIO

Dr. Noël Crosby, Au.D., owner and practicing audiologist at Advanced Hearing Solutions in Englewood, FL is an experienced professional whose career has been devoted to helping people of all ages hear and understand more clearly.

With over 23 years of experience, Dr. Crosby’s career path is marked by the pursuit of advanced education. After completing her undergraduate requirements, she received her Bachelor and Master of Science degrees from Florida State University and her Doctorate in Audiology from the University of Florida.

Her credibility as an authority grew during her tenure as the Director of Audiology at the Silverstein Institute in Sarasota, FL from 1991-1998. Today, in addition to managing a successful audiology practice, Dr. Crosby just completed her second term as president of The Florida Academy of Audiology.

941-474-8393 | www.drnoelcrosby.com

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