Aging and Hearing Loss: tips for hearing and being heard -
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(ARA) - Hearing loss affects 28 million Americans both young and old, ranging from mild impairment to profound deafness. This can be especially challenging when entertaining because not everyone who enters our front door, or is seated next to us at a party, may have perfect hearing.

"We live in a loud world and it is inevitable that we or someone we love, will have some hearing loss," said Kathy Landau Goodman, Audiology Awareness Campaign President and Chairman of the Board of Directors.

The stress and excitement of gatherings can affect those with hearing impairments more than others. Following are 10 tips to ensure guests have a good time and conversations flow more smoothly:

  • When speaking to someone who can't hear well, face the person directly so that he or she can read your lips, and take cues from your facial expressions and body language.
  • Speak slowly and clearly. Avoid exaggerated lip movements and shouting.
  • Make sure you have the person's attention before starting to talk. A gentle tap on the shoulder or raising of a finger can signal that you are going to speak.
  • Do not obscure your face and mouth with your hands or other distractions (eating or smoking for example).
  • If you are asked to repeat yourself several times, try rephrasing your sentence instead of becoming frustrated. Some words may "look" the same to those who are reading lips.
  • Beware of the environment. Large, crowded rooms can be very difficult for hearing impaired persons. Turn off the television, radio and reduce other background noise. Bright lights and shadows may also present barriers.
  • Get to know about the person and his or her interests the same way you would with anyone else. The range of interests you share may surprise you.
  • If you sense someone is not following the conversation, offer to clarify or explain later.
  • There is a wide range of hearing losses and communication methods. If you don't know the individual's preferred method or don't know what to do to help, please ask.
  • Have paper and pens available as well as other activities such as cards and jigsaw puzzles that don't require a lot of conversation.

As a hearing-impaired listener, some social situations are uncomfortable. Identify conditions that affect your ability to participate in conversations and make specific requests to improve the situation. Or, try some of the following:

  • Find the quietest location possible to converse.
  • Get as close as you can to the person who is speaking. Seat yourself where you can have a full view of the person talking.
  • If you don't understand something, ask questions. Don't bluff or pretend to have heard something when you haven't.
  • Explain that you have a hearing loss and politely let others know how to best communicate with you.
  • Avoid being close to walls or other hard surfaces that sound can bounce off of. Adequate lighting, echo-muffling rugs and curtains will help.
  • Educate yourself about the many hearing devices and services available. Attend a coping skills or lip reading class and encourage friends and family to go too.

Individuals with mild to moderate hearing loss may be unaware of the problem even though family and friends can be quite conscious of it. Most hearing loss develops over a period of 25 to 30 years and can be contributed to such factors as noise, family history or the natural aging process. According to the National Institutes of Health, noise is responsible for one-third of adult hearing loss. By age 50 or 60, there can be enough deterioration to interfere with conversation.

Hearing loss is often painless, develops slowly and worsens with age. Some physical warning signs include ringing in the ear(s), muffled speech sounds or the inability to hear a speaker three feet away after leaving a noisy area.

Only one in five people with a hearing loss seek help and therefore most people experience a reduced quality of life. Protect your hearing by visiting an audiologist for a hearing test and being aware of noises in your life that pose potential harm to your ears (busy restaurants, traffic, stereos and lawn mowers, for example).

"If we just take a few precautions, we can enjoy loud events like rock concerts and NASCAR races without the risk of hearing loss," said Landau Goodman. "Wearing ear protection (earplugs or muffs) usually makes the experience more enjoyable and may just save your hearing."

Remember that we live in a noisy world! You can't eat in a restaurant, attend a movie, shop at the local mall or be put on hold over the telephone without being bombarded by loud sounds. Increased noise levels in our lives can cause ear damage that can interfere with your ability to interact with others, cause misunderstandings and heighten stress.

For more information (a free 15-page booklet called "Listen Up America"), or to find an audiologist in your area, call 1-888-833-EARS (3277) or visit the Web site at

Courtesy of ARA Content, , e-mail:

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