David’s eyes were focused on his friend walking beside him on the sidewalk. In order to “hear” the conversation, David looked right at his friend who spoke. The act of lip reading required David’s eyes to do the listening. Neither one of them saw the low-hanging tree limb until after it smacked David in the forehead, producing a painful gash.
Janie enjoyed a relaxing shower after chasing after her two-year-old son all morning. While the boy played in the next room, Janie relished the tranquility of taking out her hearing aids and having five quiet minutes in a hot shower. It was only after Janie turned off the shower that she heard the horrifying scream. When she raced into the next room dripping wet, Janie saw her son’s finger covered in blood next to a broken window.
Sam was accustomed to high-pressure sales pitches at his job with a trade organization. He routinely participated in conference calls, maximizing the volume of his phone headset because of his hearing loss. Instead of celebrating after closing a sale, Sam frantically reached into his desk drawer for the bottle of antiperspirant that lay hidden behind sales contracts. Sam sweat so much from the exertion of trying to hear that he occasionally soaked his dress shirts.
Wanda thought about getting a tattoo on her wrist with the message “Breathe.” Because she had such a difficult time hearing her soft-spoken husband, Wanda tried twice as hard to understand him in conversations at home. Even with gentle reminders to speak up, Wanda’s husband inevitably reverted to speaking in a hushed voice on most occasions. Wanda was so stressed by not being able to hear him well that she struggled to breathe, began having panic attacks, and then fell into a deep depression.
The emotional toll of hearing loss is real and needs to be addressed by the hearing healthcare community.
It’s time to get real about hearing loss.
Lipreading Mom either personally witnessed or experienced these stories. Although pseudonyms are used here, the stories are real. The stress, hurt, and exhaustion of living with hearing loss is a daily reality for the 48 million Americans diagnosed with a significant hearing loss.
This post may trigger emotions for those of us who can relate to the stories. And rightly so. Hearing loss is a serious matter.
While improvements in hearing healthcare have inspired the creation of high-tech hearing aids and assistive listening devices, there is still much work to be done about the physical and emotional burdens of living with hearing loss.
According to the Hearing Loss Association of America, hearing loss has been shown to “negatively impact nearly every dimension of the human experience including: physical health, emotional and mental health, perceptions of mental acuity, social skills, family relationships and self-esteem.”
Let me be clear: There are many ways to enhance the quality of life when living with hearing loss. I strongly advocate for the use of hearing aids and assistive technology, such as FM systems and Computer Aided Real-time Translation (CART), to help with listening situations.
Yet even with technology in place, there are a number of ways that hearing loss makes communication difficult. Lip reading challenges, loud background noises, and quiet talkers can make even the happiest person with hearing loss occasionally feel frustrated, tired, or overwhelmed.
So…what is the solution?
The blood, sweat, and tears of hearing loss need to first be acknowledged, not only by those of us who cannot hear, but by the individuals who work in the hearing healthcare industry.
What services can audiologists offer to help us learn to accept, adjust to, and adapt to our hearing loss? Can the hearing healthcare industry offer counseling services as one of the benefits of purchasing hearing technology? I think this needs to become standard practice within audiology offices nationwide.
The emotional toll of hearing loss is real and needs to be addressed just as much, if not more so, than the hearing technology that purports to improve quality of life. After all, hearing aids and technology deal with but one aspect of our hearing loss: the physical need to hear.
Still, the emotional need to hear and be heard is just as important to our health.
What are your thoughts?