Like many people of my age, I am audio challenged – my hearing loss was caused by perforated eardrums.
But I am lucky quality hearing aids correct it. Without wearing these modern day wonders, if you are downwind from me I have little chance of hearing you. But face-to-face with good articulation I am reasonably able to receive your message.
When ‘aid-less’ the occasional blurring of consonants may give rise to confusion for me and the speaker. Like sinking becomes thinking, Thursday becomes thirsty, fifth/lift, sit/shit and so on and so on.
Being deaf can produce amusing moments, especially for others. The fact is that lampooning hearing loss is still socially acceptable unlike making fun of other disabilities.
I join in the laughter at my gaffs. Like the time, BHD (before hearing devices), my friend asked me, “how is your urine?” Wow — that is personal I thought but she was a good friend and I presumed there was a purpose to her enquiry. I replied, “all good just have to get up a couple of times at night.”
She grabbed my arm, “No I said how is your hearing?” mouthing the words carefully and deliberately.
Hearing devices amplify sounds so in most situations they work well but in excessively noisy situations like a shopping centre, they simply swell the peripheral noise.
Most hearing loss adults over time have learned to read people’s lips and I am no exception. I cannot read people’s chatting lips from a distance. I need them in front of me where I follow their lips, eyebrow lifts, chin thrusts and body language to interpret the message as accurately as possible.
Sadly there is a stigma attached to deafness, people see it as being ‘old,’ ‘slow,’ ‘rude’ or ‘stupid.’ The broad sweep of ageism that society conveniently attaches to the aberrations of growing older.
And it is a condition that most frequently affects the older generation (65 and over) with one in three people in the US and one in six in Australia experiencing a hearing loss.
Steps you can take to manage adult hearing loss positively:
- Acceptance – once you accept the limitations of loss of hearing you can manage it more effectively
- Focus on doing things that you love
- Get a good audiologist’s advice when investing in quality hearing devices
- Own up to your deafness with family, friends and colleagues – tell them how they can help you
- Keep socially active
- Keep physically active
Risks of listening to excessively loud music
There are various factors that cause adult deafness but one that is on the horizon and growing rapidly in risk is exposure to loud noises. Society has been aware since the ‘50s that industrial noise can cause damage and we have taken precautions in the form of legislation to protect workers. But no legislation is in place to protect our young who like to listen to their music on their phones and iPods at a dangerously high level. It seems loud music driven into ears by those pesky ear-buds can be the same decibel level (110) as a jumbo jet taking off! Fifteen minutes of listening at this decibel level will damage the ears.
The World Health Organisation back in 2015 warned nearly half of young adults – between the ages of 12 – 35 are exposing themselves to dangerously loud noise level and that more than one billion teens and young adults are at risk of losing their hearing.
Hearing loss caused by constant exposure to loud music is something we can prevent. Like any other medical condition prevention is the key:
• Use headphones rather than ear-buds.
• Use earplugs at nightclubs or loud pop concerts.
• Turn the volume down.
Hearing loss is not fun. While people may smile and josh as you laugh at their hearing bloopers, the truth is hearing loss impacts on the quality of work and social life. Your frustration in being with them is nothing compared to the isolation they feel without their hearing devices.
Rosie Malezer author of “How to be Deaf” wrote, “Your hearing status doesn’t make you a better person. Your humanity does.”
And with the rising tide of adult deafness predicted this is how you can show your humanity:
- Talk directly to the person.
- Don’t turn your head, especially downwards where your voice will disappear.
- Articulate purposefully, as in ‘a,’ ’e,’i,’ ’o,’ ’u.’
- Speak more slowly, not necessarily more loudly but more clearly
- Understand that most will have learned to lip read to a certain extent so don’t put your back to the sun with the person in front of you – they will not be able to see you clearly to do so.
- Avoid venues where clatter and chatter override a deep and meaningful conversation
- Above all be patient