Sounding Off On Age-Related Hearing Loss

Raise your hand if you:
…have trouble understanding others on the phone.
…people tell you the TV volume is on too loud.
…avoid group settings because communication is too difficult.
…are concerned your husband seems to misunderstand you lately and is now accusing you of mumbling.

Sound familiar?

When the topic of hearing loss comes up, a lot of people think of it as an “old person’s problem”. Complete with the Granny-yelling-with-a-bullhorn-in-her-ear stereotypes. This always annoyed me. I’ve had a hearing loss since I was born. As a kid I certainly didn’t like being lumped in with the “old folks” either. No wonder denial is such a popular coping method when hearing loss becomes noticeable. (And the first person to notice it probably isn’t going to be you).

An un-checked hearing loss can become a problem that seeps into pretty much all areas of our lives where communication is crucial. It can also weigh heavily on relationships. With the right resources, solutions are within reach. I really encourage people to take a pro-active stance in dealing with hearing loss head on.

This is not to say there is only one way to remedy this issue. There are no hard and fast rules here. A person experiencing hearing loss may feel pressure from well meaning (and possibly quite exasperated) family members/close friends to get a hearing aid, for example. This of course may be a perfectly reasonable suggestion unless you are the person who is supposed to wear the thing. It’s just tough to stand there and see how it feels.

There is a wonderful deaf percussionist named Evelyn Glennie who gave the TED talk “How to Truly Listen” (posted below). In one point, she describes being given notes on a page with all the instructions – she can play it exactly as she’s told. But the musician’s “interpretation” of the music on the page is what makes us unique and magnificent. She then illustrates this with a glorious demonstration.

Your “interpretation” could be living well with hearing loss. Here are some ways to get started:

Get it Checked First stop, your primary physician to rule out any underlying causes of hearing loss. Sometimes hearing loss can be caused by an obstruction, a side effect to medication, or a symptom of something else. It’s important to communicate with your doctor any hearing difficulties you may be experiencing. If your doctor has determined you have age-related hearing loss or presbycusis, they will most likely recommend you see an audiologist.

Gather your Tools It’s not the only tool, but yes, I’m talking about hearing aids. In all their glory. I have to say, though in my decades of wearing them (yes, DECADES) they’ve come a long way. All new hearing aids are equipped with digital technology and many have program options for different listening scenarios. They can also be either un-noticeable (blending in with hair color or small enough to be hidden) or VERY noticeable! They come in every color of the rainbow and are worn by all the cool kids. While hearing aids remain a common solution for hearing loss, they are just one kind of “tool”. Some others (including but definitely not limited to): amplified and captioned phones, equipment to make your home safe, lipreading, sign language, voice recognition software, even captioning at the movies.

Get Connected The single most empowering thing for me as a hard of hearing person is knowing others who have hearing loss. You can learn a lot from someone just be talking to them and observing how they “do” their lives. It also gives me confidence because I know others out there truly “get it”. If you are new to hearing loss, it’s a great time to get this kind of support. The Hearing Loss Association of America is a wonderful resource for active local support groups throughout the country.

Grieve Your Loss This is important. Allow yourself to grieve. This is big. A major change. Whatever are you are feeling about it, every negative, sucky bit, let it rip. Pity Party complete with a Bonfire and a Rain Dance. Then pick yourself up and..

Get Going.. Explore! Use your tools and new connections to see what’s out there. You may need to approach some things differently, but in doing so, there’s new stuff to discover. Your hearing may be different, but give yourself new eyes and let the world sparkle like never before!

Point is, like anything in life, we can approach hearing loss in our own unique way. These resources are, if nothing else, “notes on a page”. The interpretation is entirely up to you!

This aricle originally appeared on Feisty Side of Fifty.

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