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We frequently flaunt statistics about how many Americans have a measurable degree of hearing loss— the numbers I recently read quoted 17 %, but we often forget that along with these numbers come a great deal of misunderstanding about what this actually means. Personally, I don’t have a hearing loss, but as I’ve worked at Listen Technologies, I’ve started to learn more about some the common misconceptions that are associated with it; I’ve admittedly even been guilty of some of them. Having said that, I feel its important that if were ever going to erase the stigmas that are associated with hearing loss, that we need to move past the misconceptions. Once they’’re erased, we can start to move forward, which is exactly the direction in which we need to move.

Using Hearing Loss as a Definition Is Silly

When we wake up in the morning we have certain ideas about who we are. Some of us define ourselves by what we do. Some of us define ourselves by the things and people we love, by the things we have, or the things we want to accomplish. Most of us define ourselves by all of these things combined. Rarely do we define ourselves by one thing.
I, for example, don’t wake up in the morning and say, “I have blue eyes and that is all that matters to me.” That would be silly! So, why would someone with hearing loss wake up every morning and define themselves as solely someone with hearing loss? The simple answer is that they don’t. And no one else should either. Again, that would be silly.
A person with hearing loss should most certainly be considered the way that anyone else in the world is considered: complicated, caring, feeling, loving, capable, kind, and a combination of millions of other human characteristics. No one person is one thing.
Hearing loss is not a definition. Hearing loss is something that someone has. My blue eyes, the ones I mentioned earlier, need glasses. I don’t define myself by this; I simply wear glasses and contacts, so that I can see the world around me better. People with hearing loss need assistive listening to help them hear the world around them better.
Hearing loss affects many wonderful, talented, intelligent, witty, people and it is a disservice to ourselves and to them to simply define them as one thing.

Hearing Loss Only Happens to People Over 70

A lot of us assume that we can listen to super loud music in our cars and earbuds; that we can go to tons of super loud movies at the local? perplex; or that we can go to ridiculously loud concerts and that since were under 70, it wont matter. I’m going to flaunt some numbers again to prove that this isn’t exactly true: 15% of Americans between the ages of 20 and 69 have a high-frequency hearing loss due to exposure to loud sounds. We are exposed to these sounds at work, in our cars, at home, and in all sorts of environments.
Yeah, yeah I know I’m being all about statistics, but when you look at the numbers, they’re pretty astounding. That’s a lot of people. A noise-induced hearing loss is preventable. Don’t believe me? Ask Cory Schaeffer. And buy some earplugs while you’re at it.

A Hearing Aid Isn’t Magic, but Communicating Is

Just because someone has a hearing aid doesn’t mean that their hearing is suddenly made perfect. Hearing aids can increase volume, but don’t always improve clarity. In certain frequencies hearing aids can slightly enhance clarity by raising the volume, but they don’t work like magic fix-alls. Although it would be awesome, I’m pretty sure Hogwarts doesn’t have an Audiology program.
Sometimes people with normal hearing assume that if they talk louder or increase the volume that they’re helping their friends and loved ones with hearing loss. Louder isn’t always better. Increasing volume too much can distort sound quality and yelling and over-articulating isn’t always helpful. A person who can hear normally isn’t capable of determining if speech or volume is clear enough for a person with hearing loss to understand.
When a person starts to develop a hearing loss, they can often feel isolated. They stop doing what they love to do. They stop seeing their friends and family and stop communicating as much. It’s important that this doesn’t happen. If you know someone who is developing hearing loss, someone who has hearing loss, someone who wears hearing aids, or someone with cochlear implants, it’s important to be inclusive and communicate.
As a written communication is hugely important to me. It is what makes us human. It’ how we express how we feel, what we want in life, who we love, what we think is good. It’s how we get things done. When you take that away from anyone, you take away part of their humanity. This is simply not OK with me. When we communicate with each other, the real magic happens.

If you are communicating with someone who has a hearing loss, remember some of these things:

  • Stop shouting! Yelling makes many words hard to understand. Speak in a normal tone of voice.
  • Don’t slow your speech. Speak clear and naturally, that allows words to be clearly distinguished from one another.
  • Maintain eye contact; make sure your mouth can be seen clearly—especially in noisier environments.
  • Use body language, facial expressions, gestures, and tone of voice.
  • Be considerate (this is a good rule of thumb, no matter who you’re talking to) and make sure you’re having a two-way conversation. This is a good way to make sure you’re being heard and hearing what your friend or loved one is saying in return.
Obviously, I’ve just barely started to scratch the surface when it comes to discussing some of the common misconceptions about hearing loss. There are so many and I have a lot more to learn on this topic. I hope that as I gain more understanding, that I can share my insights with you. I feel strongly that in doing this, we will begin to erase the stigmas that are associated with hearing loss, which will allow us to move forward. And (as I said earlier) this is exactly the direction we need to go.
Three separate ListenTALK receivers in a row with different group names on each display screen.
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