Hearing Better for the Holidays

By Dr. Kathleen Coates, Audiologist/Owner

Don’t judge but I started to listen to Christmas music the day after Halloween! Christmas music is a great example of how sound can create an emotional response: joy, happiness, hope.

The holiday season should be a wonderful time of year but it can be a struggle for patients who experience hearing loss. Many patients who walk through our doors report difficulty hearing in group settings and in the presence of background noise, such as Thanksgiving supper and Christmas morning.

Look at the following pictures… What sounds can you imagine? 

This should be a time of celebration, support, thankfulness and hope.

Our goal is to help educate patients as well as family members and friends on the best communication strategies and technologies that can help in challenging listening situations.

We want to ensure you are able to hear Aunt Betty tell her story (the same one from last year), hear (and cringe at) the joke Uncle Joe just told Cousin Phil, hear Linda talk about her new job, hear baby Tyler’s laugh, hear the gift wrapping being crumpled up, hear Sally’s squeal when she got the doll she wanted and many other beautiful sounds.

We don’t want you to be the head nodding, smiling bystander anymore… we want you to be part of the conversation because YOU MATTER!

COMMUNICATION STRATEGIES:

“Steps to Better Hearing: There is More to Hearing Loss than Just a Hearing Aid.” (www.hearingloss.org)

  1. Attention: Gain attention of the person you are trying to speak with first.  For example, say his/her name, then tap a shoulder or arm lightly or walk in front in his/her sight.
  2. Facial Cues: Make sure you are facing the person.  This suggestion is not just about lip reading.  Facial expression and body language can add vital information to the conversation.  Make sure you keep your hands away from your face as well. It also helps to not talk with food in your mouth nor chew gum.  Sometimes even larger beards and mustaches can affect lip reading.
  3. Speak Clearly: Many people think that if they raise the volume of their voice, that someone will hear them.  However, it is better to speak more distinctly, without exaggerating.  Shouting can distort the words.  Speak at a normal rate, not too slow.
  4. Rephrase: If someone does not understand what you said the first time, try stating the phrase or question differently rather than just repeating it.
  5. Background Noise: When conversing, try moving to a quieter area or turn down the background noise or music if possible.  When going to a restaurant, ask for a table away from the kitchen or large parties and try to sit with most of the background noise behind you.  For example, try to sit at a booth in the corner, rather than a table in the middle of the dining room.

Here’s How Hearing Aid Technology Helps in Background Noise:

Automatic Switching: Hearing aid technology is now automatic.  Patients used to have to change programs and settings manually based on the type of sound environment they were currently in.  They would have a program for quiet, background noise, music, outdoors, etc..  Now, the hearing aid technology is so advanced that it is constantly processing sound and filtering out background noise based on where you go, automatically. Of course, to get to the point where the devices are working the best for you individually, you need to see an audiologist with the education and background to know how to program the devices, use research-based verification testing as well as take the time to listen to your goals.

Directional Microphones and Noise Filtering: Hearing aids have 1-2 microphones on each device to pick up sound. These microphones are advanced and are able to switch directions based on the location of the most important speech signal and help reduce unwanted background noise.  Correct programming adjustments can only be made by an audiologist.  Our Coates Cafe testing simulates a restaurant with background noise to ensure changes we made in your devices will help in the real world.

Real Ear Verification Testing: We offer testing to see if patients’ current hearing aid settings are meeting their current hearing loss needs. We encourage anyone who is struggling to hear with their current hearing aids to complete this testing. Research has shown that patients perform significantly better in the presence of background noise when their hearing aids are fine-tuned and adjusted based on these test results.  Many hearing clinics do not offer this type of advanced testing.

Smartphone Applications: There are many free applications to download for Bluetooth streaming, troubleshooting tips, finding a lost hearing aid, detecting fall risk and many other advantages.  These applications also allow the patient to manually adjust the features discussed above, if needed.  This is especially important when the patient is first fit with hearing aids, to ensure that comfort to sound in these environments and to know specific automatic programming adjustments needed at the follow-up visit.

If you need to talk to us more about your specific needs, please call us today! We are here for you.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS AND MERRY CHRISTMAS FROM COATES HEARING CLINIC!