This story was originally published in the Morden Times on January 23, 2009. It is reproduced on the CHHA Manitoba Chapter web site with their permission.
Did you know that there are over 3,000,000 Canadians living with hearing loss? An estimated 70,000 of them live in Manitoba. Probably you are saying, “Yes and one of them lives in my house.” We often think that hearing loss is an old people’s problem; however before the age of 5 years, 4% of children will sustain some degree of hearing loss.
Modern technology has done much to improve the quality of life for those with hearing loss. Every year new hearing devices are developed and more people can get out of isolation. However, one older lady said it well, “These are AIDS only; they do not give us normal hearing like we used to have.”
Many people are reluctant to admit they are hard of hearing. We all want to stay young forever, and we somehow have the idea that wearing a hearing aid will cause us to age more quickly, when the opposite is actually true. If we wear an aid we can avoid unnecessary strain and protect the hearing we still have. What can we do to remove the stigma of hearing loss? We accept people who wear glasses without judgment even if they still have some difficulty. Let us learn to extend the same courtesy to individuals who are hard of hearing. If we all work together we can remove the stigma and free hard of hearing people to be themselves and enjoy life in the company of their hearing peers. Acceptance and encouragement is so important.
What can people with hearing loss do to feel accepted by society? In addition to hearing aids, there is another valuable way to achieve this. It is a program called Living With Hearing Loss. This program has been available in Winnipeg for more than 20 years, and has met with great success. Through the efforts of several members of the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association (CHHA) and the Society for Manitobans with Disabilities (SMD) it is now available in several other regions in Manitoba. Morden is one of these fortunate communities. The skills that are presented and practiced during the course have helped many isolated folks get back to enjoying a social life again, eating out, attending family gatherings and even concerts. The following was written by someone who has completed the entire course.
My hearing loss was caused by noise in my work environment; there is no substitute for normal hearing so protect your hearing at all times and at all costs. Normal hearing is so much better than anything you can do to try to compensate for hearing loss.
Someone once said to me, “You are fortunate, you could be losing your eyesight rather than your hearing”. I am not sure how to interpret a statement like that since my eyesight is good but each year my hearing gets progressively worse. Without hearing assistance (hearing aids) I am almost totally deaf, on a word recognition test with hearing aids I only scored 16%, this means that I cannot understand most words or sounds that I manage to hear. Hearing loss does not improve with age, if anything my hearing gets worse every year.
A lot of people with hearing loss figure that nothing can be done to assist them; others don’t want to admit that they cannot hear properly. There are not many medical miracles that will reverse severe hearing loss but there is something that you can do to improve your ability to deal with the problem.
About one year ago I came across a notice in Morden Times about Speech Reading classes (Lip Reading plus) at the Friendship Centre; I jumped at a chance to attend in the hope that it would improve my ability to communicate in a hearing world.
The exchange if ideas and information among participants in the class made me realize that there are certain things that can be done to help a person with hearing loss. I have searched out a new Audiologist, had my hearing retested, got new ear pieces made for my hearing aids and had the hearing aids re-adjusted to best help my particular hearing loss.
I am not able to read lips across a room like in the movies but because of Speech Reading classes I am able to get involved in normal conversations with people and as a result my social life has improved considerably. My ability to understand spoken words has increased from 16% using hearing aids only to over 70% with both hearing aids and speech reading (lip reading) as tested by an audiologist.
The speech reading classes that I have been attending have made a difference. Give it a try, it’s worth the effort.
Living With Hearing Loss is a three-fold program involving speechreading, coping and assertiveness skills. Speechreading (formerly called lip reading) is the ability to understand a spoken message by observing the movements of the lips, jaws, tongue and teeth and by interpreting facial expressions, gestures and body language. Classes are lead by trained Instructors who have a hearing loss themselves. Often during class time I hear someone comment about how much they have learned from other class members who share their stories, challenges and problem solving strategies. It is very gratifying to see a group of adults, from all walks of life, come together with common concerns and issues and throughout the course become friends and support each other.
The next session of Living with Hearing Loss will begin with an information session and introductory lesson on January 28th 2009, 2-4 pm at the Morden Library, 514 Stephen Street in Morden MB. If you or someone in your family is hard of hearing you are welcome to come and listen in. The course is for all adults whether you wear hearing aids or not. Please come and bring a friend. For more information or to register for the 10 week course please call Edna 204 822-3861 or Sandy at SMD 204 822-7410 and leave a message.
Submitted by Edna Peters, Program Instructor