Day by day
Seek treatment if you suspect hearing loss
“The incessant bird chirping became bothersome.”
Actually, bird songs make me smile. So why would I write they are bothersome?
That first sentence was part of an Arizona State University research study of new sentences for the Standardized Hearing Test. I was a test subject and got 100 percent because I have two successful cochlear implants that allow me to perceive sounds. My favorite sentence was: “Her smile was as smooth as creamed corn.”
I implore you to read these two sentences to someone you suspect has hearing loss. If they don’t understand, their hearing may need help. Hearing loss isn’t only about not hearing sounds, it’s more about misunderstanding words. Communication becomes stilted, often causing people to withdraw.
The 48 million people who report some degree of hearing loss likely agree.
When visiting 98-year-old Ruth Sawyer Jividen, I was writing everything on a pad of paper because she could not hear well. She tried to get her hearing aid out of her ear canal and, finally, it released. I saw a tiny hearing aid that would be difficult for anyone to remove.
We laughed when we realized there was no battery in the aid. I told her I would have to write about this in May, during Better Speech and Hearing Month.
Sadly, Ruth won’t read this because she died in April. Even though her hearing aids were a nuisance for her at times, she wanted to communicate in any way possible.
I have always been an advocate for effective communication. Over the years, I have incorporated the use of speech, speech reading (or lip reading), sign language and writing. No matter the age or amount of hearing loss, I believe in having choices and using whatever works.
Years before I was totally deaf, sign language became my second language. Writing and reading lips and body language were all ways I connected with others.
Sometimes the best tool was letting others know what I needed. Often it was as simple as moving to a quieter spot. It was important to me to let others know I really wanted to know what they were telling me.
Reena Kothari of Hilliard is a doctor of audiology (Au.D.) who has experience in early hearing screening for newborns and infants. She agrees that using whatever you need to communicate is important.
“Hearing loss affects the life cycle/span and is so vital for communication,” Kothari said. “Humans are pre-wired to communicate.”
She added that one in three babies is born with permanent congenital hearing loss, making it the most common condition existing at birth. She said it is the most common condition in adults after heart disease and arthritis.
Kothari said Ohio has a law that babies must be screened before leaving the hospital. The screening identifies babies at risk for hearing loss. They refer those parents to an audiologist, who can do further testing, diagnose hearing loss and suggest available communication options for the child and family.
Hearing loss can occur at any time in a person’s life. It can be genetic or induced by noise, medication, disease (such as heart disease, diabetes or high blood pressure), side effects, illness or allergies. It can be permanent, fluctuating or progressive, Reena said.
If you suspect hearing loss, it’s important to see a licensed audiologist for diagnostic testing; that person can provide options along with counseling and support and refer you to a physician, if needed.
Hearing aids are improving continually, as is cochlear implant technology. I encourage people to seek hearing aids that are easy to handle. If people see them, they will grasp your needs better.
Hearing loss is invisible, which adds to the dilemma. When I wore hearing aids, often people couldn’t understand my lack of comprehension. Understanding is a two-way street. For a person with hearing loss, word discrimination is difficult. The icing on the cake is when the other (hearing) person displays patience and understanding.
The sign for communicate is forming a letter C with both hands and moving them back and forth at chest level. Two-way street.
Whether you have a newborn, are 98 years old or fall somewhere in between, recognizing hearing loss is the first step to improved communication and staying involved with the world around you.
The spring 2014 edition of Hearing Health Magazine, at hearinghealthmag.com, talks about how to buy, choose and use hearing aids and get the most out of them. This publication is free and full of good information.
Check it out, as well as your hearing. Speak up for your needs and listen to the birds sing.