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

By Dr. Noël Crosby, Au.D. –

hearing lossLast month I outlined Step #1 of a comprehensive communication strategy for both the listener with hearing loss and his or her friends and family. In that article I described 1) the importance of recognizing and understanding the signs and symptoms of hearing loss and 2) how important it is to understand that enabling a loved one with hearing loss is detrimental to their treatment.

This month I will address Step #2 for both the listener and speaker: a variety of treatment options for hearing loss. (See Figure 1 for list of Communication Strategies.)

Communication Strategies for the Listener with Hearing Loss

Step #2: Understand Treatment Options

While hearing aids are the treatment option for millions, there are, in fact, other products available designed to improve the ability to hear and communicate. They include assistive listening devices (ALDs) as well as interactive programs designed to improve the part of the hearing process controlled by the brain. I will review all treatment options below:

Hearing Aids
Hearing aids will not work for all types of hearing loss; therefore, treatment can only begin after an accurate diagnosis of your hearing problem. If a comprehensive hearing evaluation reveals that you have sensorineural hearing loss (loss due to damage of the auditory nerve or cells) or a combination of sensorineural hearing loss and conductive hearing loss (loss of sound sensitivity resulting from abnormalities of the middle and/or outer ear, often due to an ear infection) hearing aids are a valid treatment option. If you are diagnosed with central hearing loss, which is caused by disorders in the neuropathways leading from the ear to the brain (often caused by strokes and central nerve disease), you will be referred to an otologist for treatment.

Once you have been diagnosed with hearing loss that can be treated by hearing aids, your hearing healthcare provider will make a recommendation for the type of hearing aid that will best improve your particular level of hearing loss. In making his or her recommendation, your provider will also take into consideration your personal preferences and your budget when choosing an appropriate size and style of hearing aids. Additionally, your daily activity level and your living and work environment will help determine the hearing aid that is best for you. Modern features of today’s digital aids can more accurately simulate the way the ear works and provide a more natural sound. Be aware of the benefits available to you by becoming familiar with these technologically advanced features.

  • Adaptive Dual Microphones: These microphones focus on the sound source while reducing or eliminating irritating and distracting background noise, resulting in communication clarity.
  • Noise Reduction Technology: Helps reduce noise that may be distracting to the hearing aid wearer.
  • Feedback management technology: This technology allows the hearing aid to recognize feedback and squelch it before it ever occurs. No more annoying whistling sounds.
  • Cell phone and Bluetooth compatibility: Changes by the FCC means that you can easily find out if a cell phone is hearing aid compatible (HAC). Just look for the HAC label. No label means the phone is not compatible. Cell phones that work well with hearing aids have a microphone (M) rating of M3 or M4.
  • T-coil: These can be used on the phone and in many public places that are “looped”
  • Open fit technology: This slim design technology keeps the ear canal open and helps eliminate that “stuffed up” or “talking in the barrel” feeling sometimes described by hearing aid users.

Next Month: Part #3
Assistive Listening Devices and Brain Retraining Programs

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.

Step #6:
Learn to make the message interesting.

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