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HearPeers Mentors Patricia and Richard have answered a selection of gransnetters' questions on hearing loss. Read on to see if yours was one of them – plus a chance to win a £200 Love2Shop voucher. If your question hasn't been answered, feel free to connect to a HearPeers Mentor to ask your question directly.
The information provided by HearPeers Mentors is only intended as an informal guide and should not be treated as a substitute for medical advice. Gransnet would urge you to consult your GP if you have any concerns about your hearing or health in general.
Q: I have 'cookie bite' hearing loss in both ears and I'm sure my mid-range hearing is getting even worse as I'm getting older. I wondered how you dealt with the frustrations and embarrassment of having to ask people repeat themselves? thinkpink
A: I understand your frustration and embarrassment. At first, when I lost my hearing I used to 'pretend' I could hear and hoped my 'yes' or 'no' responses slotted in between were correct! Clearly, that was not an acceptable way to live. In my experience, there is only one course of action, and that is to say, "I'm sorry, I am deaf/I don't hear very well, could you repeat that please". It is not unacceptable to tell them that you feel embarrassed, I used to – they should endeavour to dispel that feeling straight away. Be strong and be brave, and you will find people are much more co-operative and understanding than you may imagine if they know your circumstances.
Remember you are not alone; many of us understand and share this challenge with you. Do please interact with other hard of hearing people and associations. The HearPeers Mentor Programme offers valuable information and support on life with a hearing implant. Connect to a Mentor to ask questions of someone who has been through the process first-hand, without the jargon.
Q: What's the easiest (kindest) way to break it to someone that would take offence that they need their hearing tested? glennamy
A: Every one of us is reluctant at first to admit something is beginning to go – and there is no easy way around this question I'm afraid. The best way forward is to be upfront and tell them in a kind, sensitive manner that you have found they are not hearing you as well as they used to, and suggest they have their hearing tested. You never know, they may be feeling frightened and show reluctance to address it themselves, and be glad that you have raised the subject. Before you do, it may be helpful to know that we acknowledge there are stages of grief associated with hearing loss: denial, anger, depression and finally, which can take some time, acceptance. On a practical level, is it possible for you to go with them and have your hearing tested too? Don't be the only voice that speaks up, is there anyone else who could help in raising the issue? And please do not hesitate to call your local healthcare professional or ask at your doctor's surgery for support and help. I hope you can make progress and wish you well.
Q: I also suffer from Meniere's and also migraneous vertigo along with fibromyalgia. Despite having my hearing checked and being told it is ok, I really struggle to hear people, especially in a crowded environment, and find myself nodding or shaking my head according to facial expressions while not hearing them. What would you advise me to do?
A: I am very sorry to hear that no-one has picked up on your problem to date. This is a situation that must be addressed. I urge you please to persist, don't take no for an answer, go back to your doctor and get referred to a consultant/audiologist so that they can offer you practical help to better manage your hearing. If you still feel you are not being listened to, ask for a second opinion. Do you have anyone who could attend appointments with you to also state your case? I hope you get the help and support that you need.
Q: My husband eventually agreed to hearing aids, but says that he doesn't hear any better with them, so doesn't use them. He can hear some people ok but struggles with others. I am one of those who he struggles with. Do you have any tips on how I can speak in a way that might help him to understand? I hope so, because although neither of us has voiced it, I think that we are both feeling quite lonely in our relationship now! MamaCaz
A: Deafness can cause significant loneliness for both partners, and I really sense from your question you don't like this or want it to get worse of course. I would urge you to be brave as clearly patience on your part is going to be a huge factor.
I understand and sympathise that to date you have not 'talked' about the situation you find yourself in. Hearing loss is obviously a particularly difficult subject to discuss by its very nature. Strange though it may seem there are many people who have hearing aids and don't wear them – the modern ones are much lighter, but they can feel 'clumsy' in your ear.
I know only one person who has the perfect pitch that I can hear without my audio processor so it is quite important to establish this if you can. The high registers and the low registers are often (not always) the ones that go first, leaving us with the mid-range registers. Can you assess the pitch of the people he can hear? Are they men who tend to be low register or women who tend to be high register? It may sound unacceptable or strange to you, but can you change the pitch of your voice a little when speaking to him to adapt to the sounds he hears the best?
Don't complain if he can't hear you, just repeat until he does. Regarding volume, speak clearly, too soft obviously is not helpful but you don't have to shout, too loud can be as difficult. If he has a good or bad ear, then sit by his good ear; particularly when you are with other people. You may have to act as a 'go-between' and repeat things to him that other people have said when he has not heard them.
Please encourage him to revisit audiologists and persist in checking his hearing. There has been so much progress in the field of hearing solutions that there may well be a different option that would help him more. Depending on his type of hearing loss he may be a candidate for an implant, so don't be afraid to ask questions.
Additionally, although you may not feel ready for this course of action as yet, I cannot over-emphasise the support and comfort you receive by interacting with other deaf/hard of hearing people, for yourself as much as DH. Please see is there if an appropriate HearPeers Mentor to connect with. Take courage and I wish you well.
Q: How can I discreetly ask people to face me so I can read their lips? I find this much easier than struggling to hear them, as my hearing is getting worse. angiehoggett
A: The most practical way of dealing with this is sad to say, not necessarily discreet. This is not easy, but I am afraid there is only one answer and that is to learn to be honest about your hearing difficulty and ask people to face you so that you can read their lips. Tell them how much you would appreciate that, as it helps you. Be strong and be brave, and you will find people are much more co-operative and understanding than you may imagine if they know your circumstances – it is when people with whom you communicate don't understand you have a hearing difficulty that the problem worsens, which may cause difficulty/embarrassment. If you feel your hearing is deteriorating, please don't be afraid to request a hearing test, and talk to an audiologist – it may be that there are practical options available to help you. Always remember you are not alone, I wish you well.
Q: Hearing loss can be very isolating. I find people get impatient with me, or give up trying to include me in conversations. I appreciate it must be very frustrating for them, it's frustrating for me too! How do you deal with the social aspects of hearing loss? cookiemonster66
A: This is a very difficult question, which I empathise with entirely as hard of hearing/deafness does indeed lead to serious loneliness and isolation. I am an avid campaigner for sensitivity and understanding for the deaf. Sadly most people do lose their patience very quickly with the hard of hearing/deaf and can almost make us feel we are stupid at worst because it's an 'invisible' disability. Interaction with other hard of hearing/deaf people is also hugely valuable and comforting. So please do persevere, and perhaps ask for counselling if you feel it would help to talk to someone about it. Connecting with a HearPeers Mentor may be useful to you.
If you simply tell people "I am hard of hearing, (I don't hear very well/I am deaf according to your preference), please help me by speaking clearly", they should co-operate, I would hope. At one time I actually had a card pinned to my coat, which said: "I am deaf please have patience", but am the first to admit that was somewhat extreme! Be strong and be brave and you will find people are much more co-operative and understanding than you may imagine if they know your circumstances. It is when people with whom you communicate don't understand you have a hearing difficulty that the problem worsens, which may cause difficulty/embarrassment. I wish you well.
Q: I'm a musician and I would say my hearing has deteriorated over the years. I am missing certain frequencies in my hearing. Would a hearing aid enable me to regain those frequencies or would it just amplify the ones I have left. rocketriffs
A: I sympathise with you greatly in these circumstances. Your question is indeed most pertinent when music is your profession. I would urge you to have a hearing test and discuss the various hearing solutions that may be suitable with a healthcare professional. The HearPeers website has further information on hearing solutions, including hearing aids.
Also, please do visit Ruth's HearPeers page. Ruth is a musician and HearPeers Mentor who was born deaf and has played the clarinet for 20 years. She is learning to sing and play the piano as well. I wish you well and hope you can have many more years in your profession.
Q: Does listening to the TV and music at a loud volume really increase the chances of hearing loss? fifi247
A: Yes. Listening to anything at a loud volume (or loud decibels) for a prolonged period of time can increase the chances of hearing loss, including the use of headphones, attending loud concerts, etc. It can also significantly increase the possibility of tinnitus.
Here's more information about the common causes of hearing loss and how to reduce your risk.
Q: I'm in my 70s and have been aware for some time now that my hearing is deteriorating. A younger friend (early 60s) has had a cochlear implant and is over the moon at the transformation this has meant for her life. If found suitable for my problems, is there an upper age limit for having this on the NHS? GeminiJen
A: This is a common myth, but there is no upper age limit. As long as you're fit and healthy enough to undergo the implant surgery and handle the device, you can have the implant if you fit the hearing loss criteria. There are many users who received their cochlear implant in their eighties or nineties. Good luck!
Q: I've had tinnitus for about three years now and the level has remained fairly constant. It's a buzzing noise which seems to act like "white noise", muffling other sounds, especially voices. Patricia, did your Meniere’s disease lead to tinnitus, as it did for my father-in-law? If so, have you learned any good distraction techniques? I seem to hum or whistle quietly to myself most of the time, but this must be really annoying for other people. nancytownsend
A: Yes, I have bi-lateral tinnitus as a result of Meniere's disease. It is very frustrating to say the least. I absolutely agree with you that humming and whistling would help you and I would urge you to continue to do so irrespective of annoying other people! (I hope no-one has suggested this to you?) That is the secret, to distract from the noise by whatever means is successful for you. I have a headset at night (I can't hear well enough without them) and at first listened to 'white noise' CDs, such as, rainforests, birds, the sea, which has helped me forget the tinnitus and get a good night's sleep. Now I have progressed to audio books and music. I would recommend that you use ear protection when attending concerts as loud music may aggravate the tinnitus, and could make it worse. I was advised not to increase the volume to above the noise you hear, as that can aggravate the tinnitus, and I would suggest that you see your healthcare professional to get it checked out and see if they can offer a solution for you.
Q: Is there an age when you should generally start going for hearing tests, or do you just go when you feel things are not right in your hearing. bradcol2
A: There's no age that you should start going for hearing tests, but it could be useful to incorporate them into your health routine, similar to having your eyesight checked. I had my first hearing test after my head injury at age 30 when I lost hearing in my right ear.
Q: I suffer from tinnitus, which is gradually getting worse and worse. I now have to use subtitles on the television but the worst thing is the constant whistling. Is there anything you can suggest to try and distract from the noise, and will a hearing aid help or will it just make the whistling louder? lizd31
A: A hearing aid may help if you have acquired hearing loss. Tinnitus is very difficult to manage, and I have tried various devices with limited success.
You have to avoid very noisy situations if you can. For me, I really had to change my state of mind and accept it's part of me, rather than fight it. Patricia mentioned white noise CDs worked for her when trying to sleep, so you may find those helpful? And I would definitely recommend using ear protection when around loud music and seeing your healthcare professional to get it checked out and see if they can offer a solution for you.
Q: For years I have had mild tinnitus in one ear. Recently, I've found I have confused the direction sounds are coming from. I don't want to resort to a hearing aid and am wondering if it will work with the tinnitus? leanfun
A: Having an external sound masking the tinnitus may help. If you have a directional sound problem then perhaps visiting your healthcare professional for a hearing test to find out if you have hearing loss in one ear may be helpful? Check out Patricia's tips for how she manages tinnitus or maybe connect with her directly to ask questions?
Q: Are there any tests we can do at home to check hearing loss, as a way to help someone understand that they might need to get a professional to check? jamielmdjs
A: You can do online and at-home tests, but it sounds as if the person involved needs to receive a professional hearing test. Explain it is no different from having an eye test if you are having problems seeing – there seems to be more stigma around hearing loss compared with eyesight loss, which does not make any sense!
You can take a free online test here. It only takes a few minutes!
Q: Is there a way that's best to approach hearing loss with my Dad? He won't go for a test because he doesn't want to wear a hearing aid (I think that's the main reason anyway) but he has the TV on so loud it's driving my mum insane! Not sure what to do and any help would be appreciated. welshpolarbear
A: If he's reluctant, maybe ask whether he's willing to take a free online hearing test at home first? This one only takes a few minutes. I find it is best to be direct and open. Men seem to be more obstinate about this than women, but explain about the effect it is having on the family and what would he do if the situation was reversed – he would want some action.
Q: How do I persuade my husband to take a hearing test? mbody
A: It's best to be direct and open. Be sure to consider your husband's personality – but for me, being direct always works best. Perhaps you could suggest you both get your hearing checked together? This way you avoid direct confrontation and the suggestion is made in a gentle, loving way? He may be more open to take an online hearing test at home? They are free and only take a few minutes.
Q: How do you tell someone (especially a man!) that wearing a hearing aid isn't anything to be shamed? Dodo123
A: Tell him there is nothing to be ashamed of, because there isn't. People wear glasses to help see, why wouldn't they wear something to help them hear? The technology is so advanced these days and discreet. There are communities of people, like HearPeers, who have been through it so perhaps suggest connecting with a like-minded person?
Q: Do you need a GP referral for a hearing test? redcardinal
A: No – you can just go into a high street retailer and get one done. If you want to receive one on the NHS then visit your GP and get referred to an audiologist if the GP thinks it appropriate and you need one. You can take a free test online, it's not a replacement for a trained professional but it can give you a rough estimate.
Q: I have noticed a very definite deterioration in my hearing in the last 18 months. I need the television and radio volumes up much higher than before. I find it harder to hear someone speaking to me if there is other noise going on - it feels like hard work to separate out what I need to concentrate on. Also, if someone speaks unexpectedly I have to ask them to repeat. Which gets tiresome for us both!
I'm unsure whether to wait and see if things deteriorate further, or be proactive and request a hearing check. Parsleywin
A: Be proactive! From my experience, the sooner you identify hearing loss and take action the better. Definitely act now and get a hearing check so they can assess what type of hearing loss you have.
Q: My hearing has deteriorated over the last couple of years (I'm 58). I find it difficult to hear people in meetings at work and often have subtitles on the TV. I had a hearing test at the opticians and was given NHS hearing aids. I have tried using them, but can honestly say that they don't make my hearing any better. They magnify all the background noises so I struggle just as much if not more. Are there different types of hearing aid? Would a private one be better? How do you know where to go for a trustworthy service? GrandmaKT
A: If you don’t think the hearing aids are working I would suggest going back for help and asking for them to be checked to see if anything can be done to improve them for you. There are many different types of hearing solutions, including several types of hearing aids – there's more information about this on the HearPeers website, which is worth visiting to learn more. There is also information about how to get them via the NHS and privately.
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