Each of our five senses is essential to the quality of life. Hearing is especially important — so much of the world around has to be experienced with sound. There is music and conversation in personal and professional relationships, auditory signals and alerts, and cues that tell us how to act in our surroundings. But what happens when the world around you suddenly goes quiet?
For people who have experienced hearing loss, this is what everyday is like — the world around them is still producing sound, but they don’t hear anything. Even with the development of hearing aids, it takes a while to get used to wearing a device to help them hear and communicate. But it helps when the people around them understand hearing loss — and helps normalize communicating, learning, and working with the help of a hearing aid.
During Better Hearing Month this May, let’s practise some empathy. Support a loved one struggling with hearing loss, and help them live a normal life in a world that understands what their disability means:
1. Understand hearing loss
What is hearing loss? For a lot of people, it’s not just the inability to hear sounds and auditory cues — they have trouble responding to signals and conversations, and understanding what’s happening around them. This can be stressful, frustrating, and depressing; we all need the full use of our senses to work, study, and form meaningful relationships.
Whether it’s a loved one, co-worker, or just people in your community who are dealing with hearing loss, take the time to educate yourself about how this develops and affects their well-being. This understanding helps you relate to them and make sure they are not excluded in conversations and other interactions.
2. Talk to loved ones
Better Hearing Month is a great time to let loved ones know that you are there for them. Reach out to those experiencing hearing loss, especially ageing parents and other family members who may have reservations about getting diagnosed and treated. If they are exhibiting symptoms of hearing loss, take time to sit down with them and communicate your support if they wish to get tested, and address their apprehensions about wearing hearing aids.
3. Share your experience
If you have experienced hearing loss yourself, Better Hearing Month is a good time to reach out and speak up. Sharing your experience about the diagnosis and adjusting to life with a hearing aid can go a long way in raising awareness and encouraging those who are exhibiting symptoms to get tested.
It also helps to normalize this disability by gathering support for initiatives that aim to raise awareness on hearing loss or assist those who are suffering from it with their daily routines.
4. Expand disability accommodations
Hearing loss is a disability — people who are experiencing it require certain accommodations to work or study, avail of services, browse information and participate in the community. During this Better Hearing Month, it’s important to look at existing accommodations for people struggling with hearing loss, and make sure that their needs are addressed in various public settings.
Just like we have ramps and elevators for better mobility, closed captioning, voice-to-text, and other accommodations should be in place to address hearing loss, and ensure meaningful participation in personal and professional activities.
If you are in a position that produces content, facilitates learning, or provides any other service, make sure that users who have hearing loss can access the information or avail of services they need with proper accommodations for sound.
5. Advocate for testing
Anyone can get tested to detect potential hearing loss — this is the best way to address and treat mild cases before they progress. If you care about someone who is exhibiting symptoms of hearing loss, encourage them to get tested — and even get tested yourself.
Better Hearing Month presents lots of opportunities for increased testing and raising awareness. This is so everyone can get tested, and hearing loss can be addressed before it impacts people’s professional performance, relationships, and mental health.
6. Normalize hearing aids
Hearing aids are the best way to help people who have lost their hearing regain that function and communicate effectively. Hearing aids pick up surrounding sound and transform these into auditory cues that their minds can process; the result is they “hear” what’s going on around them and can participate in conversations and other social activities.
Did you know that not everyone is comfortable with wearing hearing aids? Unfortunately, some people are still discriminated against just because they wear hearing aids. People who have hearing loss are often viewed as too old or infirm, and therefore not capable of living independently, performing well in school or at work, and maintaining meaningful relationships.
These negative perceptions have to change — and that starts with Better Hearing Month.
It helps to raise awareness about how hearing aids work — and how much they make life better. Hearing aids are a product of modern technological advancements; they’re a great invention that helps people cope with hearing loss, not a barrier to them or a nuisance to anyone around.
7. Offer to Help
If there’s anyone around you who asks to help them navigate hearing loss, offer to help them. Whether it’s activating voice-to-text on a phone or setting up other accommodations, you can do a lot to improve their quality of life. And even better, don’t wait to be asked — always make sure that accessibility requirements are met when necessary.
Better Hearing Month is a good time to check on loved ones who are struggling with hearing loss and offer to drive them to an auditory care clinic to get tested or treated. It also doesn’t hurt to make sure they’re wearing their hearing aids, and reassuring them that it’s for the best.
To learn more about raising awareness on hearing health and the use of hearing aids, call Living Sounds at 780-488-8100 or contact us here.