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Hearing Loss – Communication

Article by Val Bedard

I have been hard of hearing since birth. I have a profound hearing loss and wear two behind-the-ear hearing aids that help me ‘hear’ what is being said to me. I rely a lot on speech reading (also know as lip-reading). There is a ‘myth’ that needs to be changed…hearing aids do not ‘correct’ hearing loss, it is an aid such as using a cane helps with walking. Just because I wear hearing aids, it doesn’t mean that I hear what you hear. All the sounds are made louder by the hearing aid and it is up to the wearer to discriminate what they do want to hear. Hearing aids work best when the hearing aid wearer is in a quiet environment and the speaker is about 3 to 8 feet away. Beyond that, the hearing aid wearer will have to rely on other coping strategies such as speech reading or use technical devices.

For those of us who do wear hearing aids, we have to get used to hearing through amplification. For example, when I go to a restaurant, I hear all the sounds amplified, I am unable to filter out through all the sounds for one voice that I want to hear, so then I have to rely on speech reading. I hear dishes rattling, voices chattering, a constant drone of sounds, etc. all amplified through my hearing aid. After working so hard to “hear” in a noisy environment, I get tired so it’s understandable why it’s easier just to stay home.

After trying to hear in a noisy environment, people have been known to put their hearing aids in a dresser drawer, only to be forgotten while family members and friends are left struggling to ensure that the hard of hearing person can hear them. Sound familiar?

What can we do?* When speaking to someone with a hearing loss, keep facing the individual, get their attention before speaking and don’t turn away while you are talking.* Speak a little slower and clearly but do not over-articulate.* Don’t ask “can you hear me?” and embarrass the listener in front of others.* Don’t have music or radio on when trying to talk with someone with a hearing loss. All background sounds will be amplified through the hearing aid and the hearing aid wearer has to try to discriminate background sounds from your voice.* Don’t be afraid to “project” your voice a little. You are not “yelling” just speaking a little louder; the person listening to you will appreciate your efforts.

It’s been my experience that while people try earnestly to speak clearly and a little slower, after a while they forget and go right back to speaking quickly or leave the room while they are talking. I sometimes have to tactfully remind them to repeat, slow down by asking “pardon me?” Usually, that’s all it takes, just a gentle reminder. Communication is a two-way street and it is just as much my responsibility to let the speaker know when I am not “hearing” them properly.

Val Bedard has a profound hearing loss since birth and can be reached via email at

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