Hearing loss is very common as we age - in fact, one in three people will experience hearing loss after the age of 65, according to Mayo Clinic. But younger people can also experience hearing loss, due to accidents or long-term exposure to loud noises.
Since hearing loss is often irreversible, it can be a difficult transition for the person and their family to manage. However, there are many ways that you can show support for your loved one as you take on an adjusted way of life.
There are different levels of hearing loss, ranging from mild (you can hear but the sounds are muffled) to profound (you cannot hear anything, except for perhaps very loud sounds). It can also affect one ear, both, or one more than the other.
There are many ways that people can experience hearing loss:
Something is stopping the sound from reaching the middle ear. This can be the result of an ear infection, a foreign object in the ear, earwax buildup, or the inner ear not forming properly, according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. In these cases, hearing loss may only be temporary and can be fixed with medicine or surgery.
The most common cause of hearing loss, this is when there is an issue with the inner ear and/or the hearing nerves. It can be caused by illnesses, aging, injuries, listening to loud noises, and even hereditary hearing loss.Â
In fact, hearing loss is the No. 1 service-related medical issue that veterans encounter. As of September 2020, more than 200,000 3M Earplug Lawsuits have been filed against 3M, the company that manufactures earplugs meant to protect your ears from loud and high-pitched noises from combat arms.
A combination of both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss. For example, someone could be losing their hearing due to ongoing exposure to loud noises and also have a build up of earwax.
Auditory Neuropathy Spectrum Disorder
In this case, the sound is not interpreted properly by the ear and the brain is not able to organize what it is hearing. Researchers believe this might be the result of damage to the inner hair cells, auditory neurons, or a genetic predisposition, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.
"Communication is key, but if one person is unable to hear properly, it can lead to unintentional misunderstandings and hurt feelings."
Hearing loss doesn’t just impact the person experiencing it - it affects the people around them as well.
Communication is key, but if one person is unable to hear properly, it can lead to unintentional misunderstandings and hurt feelings. It can also be frustrating to constantly ask people to repeat themselves, or to have to reiterate requests over and over.
Everyday activities like walking around town or cooking can become nerve-wracking for someone with hearing loss and also worry their loved ones. What if they don’t hear a car coming, or can’t hear the fire alarm going off?
Someone with hearing loss might feel left out and withdraw if they consistently don’t understand the conversations going on around them. It can also be hurtful to the family to see their loved one retreat.
Since the person with hearing loss can’t hear themselves, they may not speak as clearly as they used to. For children with hearing loss, they can experience a delay in learning to speak since they have difficulty hearing certain sounds.
If you or a loved one has hearing loss, there are plenty of ways to adapt so that everyone is able to still enjoy their time together:
While it might be frustrating to repeat yourself, recognize that the person is not doing this on purpose â€” they simply cannot hear you! Take the time to learn which side is better for you to speak to, what volume is best, and if there are environments where it is more difficult for them to hear.
How you communicate with someone with hearing loss will have to change. Say the person’s name to get their attention, face them when you speak, and don’t start the conversation from another room. Do not shout at the person â€” if there is a sound that they’re having a hard time hearing, try another word instead. Using gestures can also help.
Meeting other people with hearing loss or who love someone with hearing loss can help create a sense of community and let you know that you are not alone. You might also learn tips that work for them to incorporate into your daily life.
Learning sign language
American Sign Language (ASL) is the fifth most used language in the United States, and 90 percent of people born with hearing loss have hearing parents, according to Health Hearing. If this is going to be an important mode of communication for someone, it’s not only easier but also supportive for family and friends to also learn ASL. It is also a big part of the deaf and hard-of-hearing community’s culture, so it’s a great way to show you accept them for who they are.
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