The WATCH Program

In Blog by Upstate Hearing

Part 2 of 2


Watch – If there is one thing I could recommend that would have the greatest impact, it is the value of speech reading. While speech or lip reading by itself is very difficult (watch the news with the sound off) and can only pick up about 35 percent of speech on average without sound, it can make the difference between following a conversation or not. When this topic comes up many people say they can’t or don’t lip read. You are better at this than you think, especially if you have a hearing loss! It is usually expressed like this “my wife talks into the refrigerator and expects me to hear her” or “my son walks away from me while talking”. As it turns out, many of the sounds that are the most difficult to hear are the easiest to see. Think about the words “knee” and “me”, they sound the same but look very different on the lips. The “k” sound has hardly any lip movement, but the “m” sound is made with the lips coming together. OK, go look in the mirror and say the word knee and me . . . you see the difference? Some more examples would be: sat and bat, blue and shoe, etc. Most of the consonants are higher pitched and most hearing losses are in those frequencies as well. High frequency hearing loss is more of an understanding loss than a hearing loss. People sound like they mumble, or the low frequencies of background noise drowns out the consonants of speech. So if you are talking to a hard-of-hearing person, get their attention first and make sure they can see you. If you are the hearing impaired always try to position yourself so you can see the speaker. That could be as simple as not talking from another room, or sitting up in the front of a lecture/classroom or church.

Ask questions – What is the normal reaction when we don’t hear someone clearly, or all that they said? We say “huh?”, “pardon me?”, “what?” and make the speaker repeat the whole sentence. Normally we heard part of what the person said, just not the whole thing or we missed a word or two. So instead of having the speaker repeat the whole sentence, ask them a question about the part you missed. “Who did you say called?” or “what else do we need at the store?” This way the speaker can repeat just the missing pieces and not the whole thing, much easier and less frustrating.

Talk – about your hearing loss. Most people don’t like to do this; it’s admitting a deficit, a handicap, a sign of aging and mortality. But like someone once told me, “it’s better to admit I’m hard of hearing, otherwise they’ll just think I’m stupid!” Have you ever had a conversation with a store clerk or waitress and received a funny look when you responded to them? If so, you probably didn’t hear them correctly and that person is starting to question your mental capacity! That’s a perfect time to say “I have a hearing loss and must have missed what you said” It will make sense to the person why you said “no thanks, I don’t want any dessert” when they ask “what kind of salad dressing”. It’s also important to educate your family and friends. Often when people call on the phone (without caller ID) the hard-of-hearing person can’t tell whose voice it is, especially members of the same family that are hard to tell apart. They should always identify themselves when calling. Caller ID and cell phones fix this issue. Another area to talk about would be the importance of lighting, distance, and visual, which brings us to the next topic.

Change the situation – As you know, lip reading is the single best thing you can do to improve your ability to understand speech. But often lighting, distance, noise, and objects interfere with that. We hear from many people that they have difficulty hearing in church, classrooms, meetings, or other large building venues. The first question we ask is “where do you sit?” You need to sit in the front where the speaker’s face is the most visible. Oftentimes music in the car will make it difficult to hear along with the road noise. Or a TV will be on and no one is really watching it, interfering with hearing the speaker. Is the lighting such that you can see the speaker, or is their face in a shadow? Restaurants are often very difficult to hear in because of the background noise. Some have better acoustics than others. If the restaurant has carpeting and upholstered seating the echo will be less. Avoid the noisy ones and find the quieter ones. Go earlier. The busiest time for dinner is around 7 p.m., whereas if you go around 5 p.m. it’s much quieter. When you sit down try and position yourself with the most noise behind you. Almost all hearing aids now have automatic directional microphones that pick up less behind you and more where you are looking. Not as common these days, but the high back booths work great for blocking out sounds behind you as well. If with a group of 6 or more, sit either at the end of the table or in the middle for the best visual of the most people. Pay attention! It’s easy to just check out and start day dreaming of other things than the conversation at hand because it’s difficult to follow. Don’t do that. Stay as focused as you can so you’re not left out.

Hearing education- If you’re still with me here, you understand this. The last word of our mission statement is education. We not only believe in ongoing education for ourselves but we believe the educated consumer is a better consumer. It used to be we went to the doctor and they gave us a diagnosis and prescription with orders and that’s what we did, not much discussion. Not anymore! Now we ask the doctor what the diagnosis means, what the prescription is, and what the side effects are. We go home, get on the internet, and research everything we can on the subject or we call our kids and they research it for us. It’s the information age and information is at our fingertips! Now, there is a lot of bad information out there so read and research intelligently. Learn about hearing loss and hearing devices and the many options for connecting to phones, TV, etc. Visit the local HLAA group, Hearing Loss Association of America. They meet the first Monday of the month at 11 a.m. at Country Waffle next to OSH. You’ll receive great information and get to know a great group of people.