Q: I always schedule my dental visits a year in advance because I’m obsessed with my teeth and want to make sure I go at least twice a year. My problem is I cannot get myself to do the same with my hearing since I have had a hard time accepting that I have hearing loss and keep trying to ignore it. Should I feel bad about this?
A: There are many people like you who have a hard time accepting they have a hearing loss and put off doing anything about treating it consistently. There are others who have hearing aids to help with their hearing loss but have trouble advocating for the additional assistance they need to communicate their best. But simply not going for an annual hearing exam shouldn’t be acceptable. Literally going out of your way to avoid a hearing exam or getting treated is not the answer. You will then be dealing with other factors that I think are worse.
Simply being embarrassed may lead to social isolation as well as problems at work and school and in relationships with family and friends. Don’t wait for a loved one to force the subject. Inspire yourself and start dealing with your hearing loss. Set a good example for others by going to your annual visit with your audiologist. Accept that you have a hearing loss and get the treatment. Also, don’t forget to be your own advocate. Sometimes it takes a little inspiration to move you forward on your hearing loss journey. Make this holiday season a new beginning and change how you address your hearing healthcare.
Here are some suggestions to help you ease into it: First get your hearing retested, and if you suspect a hearing loss, schedule your first visit and get the facts. If you know people are talking to you but have trouble understanding them, this is your sign. A newly identified hearing loss should be confirmed so you can discuss your treatment options. If you are already wearing hearing aids, this annual visit is necessary to monitor any changes with your hearing loss and enable adjustments to the hearing aids to keep them functioning at their best.
Hearing aids help but aren’t the only way to improve your hearing. Don’t hesitate to ask for further assistance to make sure you hear and understand conversational speech the best you can. For example, if you are going out to lunch with a group of friends, inform the restaurant when you make a reservation that you need to be away from the open kitchen since it’s so noisy. This is an example of how to advocate for yourself. Tell your family or friends to allow you to choose where you should sit so you are positioned to hear as well as possible in a group. Sitting with your back to a wall can help block out some of the background noise. The lighting is also important. You don’t want to sit in the dark since it affects how you lip read. Remember, you know what will help the most; you are your best advocate!
Just as no shoes fit everyone the same, different hearing losses need different hearing solutions. Your hearing aids are the first priority, but it’s also important to use them in conjunction with other assistive listening devices to make difficult listening environments more enjoyable. There are many different devices that connect to hearing aids these days, such as FM systems (used mostly in educational institutes and theaters) and television. We can now even connect wirelessly to our smart phones. Make sure to give them a try, and keep in mind that these devices are becoming more and more available in all levels of hearing aid technology.
Make this holiday season the moment you embrace your hearing loss. Start accepting it, and let it become a part of you. Allow yourself to improve how you react to your hearing loss. If you suspect there may be an issue with your hearing, get it tested and search out the new technologies to improve your communication skills, your relationships with family and friends, and your life. I know I keep saying this, but it’s so important to be your own best advocate. No one will do a better job taking care of you than yourself.
Wishing you a happy holiday season and, as always, we at Northwest Ohio Hearing Clinic are just a call away. We listen so you can hear!
Randa Mansour-Shousher, AuD, CCC-A, is a Doctor of Audiology with Northwest Ohio Hearing Clinic, located at 1125 Hospital Dr., Suite 50 in Toledo (419-383-4012) and 1601 Brigham Dr., Suite 160 in Perrysburg (419-873-4327). ❦