Make Sure You Hear That

By Kathi Mestayer

With another holiday season right around the corner, participating in conversations around the dinner table and social gatherings can be a real challenge for those with hearing loss. It can lead to feelings of frustration, especially if there is a family member who has an unacknowledged—and untreated—hearing loss.

Undiagnosed, untreated hearing loss has been shown to detrimentally affect personal relationships, as the Better Hearing Institute reports: “Research demonstrates the considerable negative social, psychological, cognitive, and health effects of untreated hearing loss with far-reaching implications that go well beyond hearing alone. In fact, those who have difficulty hearing can experience such distorted and incomplete communication that it seriously impacts their professional and personal lives, at times leading to isolation and withdrawal.”

Here are some tips to help you hear your best:

  • Sit at the end of the dinner table so you can see everyone’s faces. The ambient noise from a crowded table can be a tough listening situation, so seeing people when they are speaking will help.

  • Try to avoid sitting or standing next to fans, vents, or anything else that may be adding an extra layer of background noise.

  • Adjust the programming on your hearing aid or other listening device to accommodate a noisy environment.

  • Consider using an FM system or other assistive listening device to help you hear.

Before she became a staff writer for Hearing Health, Kathi Mestayer’s first article for the magazine in Summer 2011 spoke about the challenges of communicating well with family members. Her “tacit norms” include this list of informal rules in her family:

  • Outdoors is better. A screened porch or the back yard is a much quieter and easier place to converse than a noisy house.

  • One speaker at a time. Really.

  • Be patient. We’re all trying our best, even the kids.

  • Take a break. Struggling to make sense out of the incomplete sound data we get is exhausting. A nap or some quiet time is the best way to recharge your brain.

We hope that these tips are helpful to you in hearing that “thank you” from your loved ones.  

Show your thanks by making a gift to honor or in memory of a loved one and help HHF find a cure for hearing loss and tinnitus through our Hearing Restoration Project. We are ever thankful for your support!

Staff writer Kathi Mestayer serves on advisory boards for the Virginia Department for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing and the Greater Richmond, Virginia, chapter of the Hearing Loss Association of America. This is adapted from her reader-sponsored work, “Be Hear Now.”

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