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One reason: lack of awareness. "There's a misconception that hearing loss means you need a hearing aid," Hefferly says. And not everyone feels ready to get a hearing aid the moment they notice a problem.
But ignoring the problem can lead to disengagement from conversations and activities, which can dramatically affect your quality of life, he says. It can also seriously affect your health, increasing your risk of the following:
If you or a loved one experiences signs of hearing loss (see below), now is the time to talk with an audiologist.
Primary care physicians can help arrange appointments for comprehensive hearing evaluations with audiologists.
Audiologists assess the degree to which hearing loss is causing hearing problems and how these problems affect overall function and quality of life. Because communication is a shared activity, audiologists also assess how hearing problems impact family and friends.
To improve your ability to hear important speech sounds, your audiologist may recommend amplification through the use of a hearing aid or an assistive listening device (e.g., TV and phone amplifiers), or both.
However, it is important to recognize that the right solution depends not just on your hearing loss but on your unique set of communication needs. With your care team and loved ones, you might decide that you want amplification most of the time or only some of the time (for example, if you don't eat out, then technology to improve hearing at restaurants is not necessary). Or, you and your loved ones may find that better listening strategies are enough.
"Listening is what you're really trying to do," Hefferly says. "And sound is just one of several tools we use to listen." The others include facial expressions, lip movements, gestures and contextual knowledge.
Although the use of a hearing aid or an assistive listening device can be an important step toward improving hearing, it's not the only change that can make a difference.
Hefferly offers the following advice to help listeners gain a better understanding of speech:
Hefferly also offers the following advice for speakers on how to communicate more effectively with, and be more sensitive toward, people who have hearing loss:
It is important to recognize that the most appropriate type of hearing aid or assistive device is not just determined by your hearing loss but by your unique set of communication needs.
If you think your loved one might need help for hearing loss, it's tempting to tell them to get a hearing aid. Hefferly recommends focusing, instead, on changes you may have noticed in their quality of life.
Try something like, "You know, Dad, yesterday we were having a conversation about a topic I know you love, but you weren't really in the conversation. The hearing seems to be making it more difficult. Wouldn't it be nice if you could participate more?"
You could also point out, gently, that their withdrawal from activities might be affecting others. Maybe their spouse misses activities the two of them used to do together.
Signs of hearing loss may include one or more of the following:
These are signs of hearing loss in children:
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