Shari Eberts, a passionate hearing health advocate, shares insights on what is often missing from the first consult and what you can do to help your clients adjust to ‘hearing loss life’.
When I first discovered my hearing loss, I knew almost nothing about what to expect.
I was scared and full of self-imposed stigma that I had learned from watching my father battle his own hearing issues for years. I was 26—way too young for hearing aids—or so I thought. The next decade would take me through denial, anger, fear, frustration, and finally acceptance.
My life would never be the same.
One thing I know is that I am not alone. For many people, it takes 7-10 years before they are willing to do something about their hearing loss. Maybe it sneaks up quietly, only showing its face to those around them through the volume of the TV or their constant need for repeats. Still, they ignore the clues telling themselves: If only my spouse would speak up, I would have no issue hearing him. Or: I would understand the dialogue in this program much better if the actors didn’t speak so rapidly!
But eventually for most of us, the signs add up and we decide to get our hearing tested. This is usually our first experience with a hearing care professional. Our expectations are high, but often the first appointment centers mostly around the hearing test and a recommendation of possible devices that might help. They need more than a test and technology recommendations.
What your clients need to hear after diagnosis
What ‘hearing loss life’ looks like
What is often missing from this traditional first meeting is a discussion of the big picture. This includes:
- A broader understanding of the typical hearing loss life — its ups and its downs. For most people, hearing loss is a drastic life change fraught with emotion and uncertainty.
- The fact that relationships are impacted—both at work and at home. Without a clear understanding that things can and will get better, it can be a devastating blow.
- Understanding that they will need a wide range of strategies and skills to communicate well— because, unfortunately, hearing devices alone are not enough to create good communication in all settings.
Using communication best practices like getting the person’s attention first and keeping your mouth uncovered when speaking can immediately improve communication. Many people with hearing loss and their families are unfamiliar with these quick fixes so early in their journey.
Other soft skills and support networks can help
Communication best practices are not all that is required. Soft skills and supports you can encourage include:
- Learning how and when to self-identify as a person with hearing loss
- Understanding the communication assistance that you need and how to ask for it
- Choosing the best venues and technology tools for each listening situation
- Knowing how to plan ahead to reduce communication bumps in the road
- Managing relationships at work and in your personal life
- Finding peer support through hearing loss support groups in-person or online
- Utilizing additional tech-tools from apps to hearing loops to CART that can make communication easier for people with hearing loss
- Developing support networks including the all-important relationship with a hearing care professional that practices person-centered care
This new book can act as a ‘hearing loss survival guide’
These and other important skills are detailed in my upcoming book co-authored with Gael Hannan. We believe Hear & Beyond: Live Skillfully with Hearing Loss is the ultimate hearing loss survival guide for every person with hearing loss, their communication partners and the professional who serve them. Available May 3rd, you can pre-order your copy today.
Hearing loss does not come with an operating manual but hearing care professionals can help ease the transition for people with hearing loss by sharing their expertise, knowledge and by setting the stage for a successful hearing loss journey—one they will be on together.