Understanding Hearing Loss

Hearing loss varies from person to person – it varies by the degree of loss, the type of loss, the suitability of hearing technology available to meet the loss.  It is also affected by the ability of the individual to adapt. What works for one person is not always the answer for others with hearing loss.  It’s important to understand the complexity of hearing loss and show support for the hard of hearing person’s efforts to deal with their loss of hearing. Here are some facts to help in both understanding and support of the person with hearing loss:

  • Hard of hearing people do not hear more softly; they hear differently.
  • People may lose the ability to hear high pitched sounds, or low pitched sounds; they may lose hearing in one ear and be unable to determine sound direction or origin; or they may lose the ability to hear in background noise; they may have tinnitus (ringing or other noises) in their ears that interfere with hearing at certain times.
  • Speaking more loudly, shouting, turning up the volume, or exaggerating speech does not help, and may even make communication more difficult.
  • Knowing the unique needs of a person who is hard of hearing is a first step in support.
  • A hearing aid does not restore normal hearing. A hearing aid amplifies certain sounds that the hard of hearing person can pick up by the ear. If the person is unable to hear certain types of sounds at all, a hearing aid will not restore their ability to hear them.
  • Hearing ability can depend on the situation or setting. A store or restaurant with background music, a room with air conditioning or fans, or the background noise of TV or radio can create a poor listening environment for the hard of hearing person.
  • A small room with two or three people facing each other may provide an easy listening situation.
  • Since many hard of hearing people rely on seeing a speaker’s face and gestures, facing the person in a well-lit room can help create an ideal communication environment.