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Visual Cues May Help Amplify Sound, University College London Researchers Find

Visual Cues May Help Amplify Sound, University College London Researchers Find

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Looking at someone’s lips is good for listening in noisy environments because it helps our brains amplify the sounds we’re hearing in time with what we’re seeing, finds a new University College London (UCL)-led study, the school announced on its website.

The researchers say their findings, published in Neuron, could be relevant to people with hearing aids or cochlear implants, as they tend to struggle hearing conversations in noisy places like a pub or restaurant.

The researchers found that visual information is integrated with auditory information at an earlier, more basic level than previously believed, independent of any conscious or attention-driven processes. When information from the eyes and ears is temporally coherent, the auditory cortex —the part of the brain responsible for interpreting what we hear—boosts the relevant sounds that tie in with what we’re looking at.

“While the auditory cortex is focused on processing sounds, roughly a quarter of its neurons respond to light—we helped discover that a decade ago, and we’ve been trying to figure out why that’s the case ever since,” said the study’s lead author, Dr Jennifer Bizley, UCL Ear Institute.

In a 2015 study, she and her team found that people can pick apart two different sounds more easily if the one they’re trying to focus on happens in time with a visual cue. For this latest study, the researchers presented the same auditory and visual stimuli to ferrets while recording their neural activity. When one of the auditory streams changed in amplitude in conjunction with changes in luminance of the visual stimulus, more of the neurons in the auditory cortex reacted to that sound.

“Looking at someone when they’re speaking doesn’t just help us hear because of our ability to recognize lip movements—we’ve shown it’s beneficial at a lower level than that, as the timing of the movements aligned with the timing of the sounds tells our auditory neurons which sounds to represent more strongly. If you’re trying to pick someone’s voice out of background noise, that could be really helpful,” said Bizley.

The researchers say their findings could help develop training strategies for people with hearing loss, as they have had early success in helping people tap into their brain’s ability to link up sound and sight. The findings could also help hearing aid and cochlear implant manufacturers develop smarter ways to amplify sound by linking it to the person’s gaze direction.

The paper adds to evidence that people who are having trouble hearing should get their eyes tested as well.

The study was led by Bizley and PhD student Huriye Atilgan, UCL Ear Institute, alongside researchers from UCL, the University of Rochester, and the University of Washington, and was funded by Wellcome, the Royal Society; the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC); Action on Hearing Loss; the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the Hearing Health Foundation.

Original Paper: Atilgan H, Town SM, Wood KC, et al. Integration of visual information in auditory cortex promotes auditory scene analysis through multisensory binding. Neuron. 2018;97(3)[February]:640–655.e4. doi.org/10.1016/j.neuron.2017.12.03

Source: University College London, Neuron

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Tinitus, help now on the horizon.

Tinitus, help now on the horizon.

 

ADM Tronics Unlimited, Inc (OTCQB: ADMT), a technology-based developer and manufacturer of innovative technologies, has authorized its subsidiary, Aurex International Corporation (“AIC”) to begin advertising its new hearing protection product, Tinnitus Shield™ in Tinnitus Today, the official publication of the American Tinnitus Association, ADM announced.

Tinnitus Shield™ has been designed to protect against damaging sounds shown to cause tinnitus for individuals at risk of acquiring this condition, according to the company’s announcement.  These include military, police, musicians, construction workers, and many other occupations subject to Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL).

The US Veterans Health Administration (VA) reports that tinnitus is the most prevalent combat-related disability affecting veterans, making it a high-priority healthcare issue facing the military and the VA.

While Tinnitus Shield™ has been specifically engineered to protect against the sounds which may cause tinnitus, AIC also plans to bring to market Aurex-3®, a patented, non-invasive therapy technology for the treatment and control of tinnitus.

Heading up AIC is CEO Mark Brenner, BSc, PhD, who draws upon years of experience serving the tinnitus market in the United Kingdom.  Brenner brings with him the vision and resources necessary to set in motion the launching and distribution of Aurex-3 throughout the US and Europe.  For these reasons, the company believes that under Brenner’s leadership and guidance, both AIC technologies can effectively penetrate this burgeoning market.

“The potential market for effective technologies that addresses the tinnitus marketplace is significant, considering the millions and millions of sufferers in the US and worldwide,” said Andre’ DiMino, president of ADMT.

Brenner commented, “AIC is now able to offer the full spectrum of support to the worldwide tinnitus community with its Tinnitus Shield, providing protection from noise-induced tinnitus, and the Aurex-3, as an active treatment and management system for those who have developed tinnitus. This is receiving great interest in the UK where we are actively working with The Tinnitus Clinic, a group of specialist tinnitus clinics. In the US we have active discussions with the American Tinnitus Association.”

Source: ADM Tronics Limited

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Hearing protection at Henley Hearing, Buckinghamshire

GN Store Nord Develops Device to Protect Soldiers’ Hearing

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soldier aims gun

GN Store Nord has announced a “first of its kind, fully fledged hearing protection solution, enabling defense and security forces to hear more, do more, and be more.” With this advanced tactical hearing-protection solution, GN reports that it is leveraging unique leading competencies within intelligent audio solutions in both hearing aids and headsets to create an unparalleled noise management solution. The product will be manufactured at its Bloomington, Minn, facility where ReSound is also located.

The global market for military communication systems is estimated to be about $630 million, and features competitors such as Peltor (3M), INVISIO, Silynx, Racal Acoustics, and MSA Sordin, according to long-time hearing industry analyst Niels Granholm-Leth of Carnegie Investment Bank in Copenhagen.  GN has embarked on several projects in its GN Stratcom organization, which is currently part of GN Hearing, although the company could eventually establish it as a stand-alone division alongside its Hearing (ReSound, Beltone, and Interton) and Headset divisions (Jabra).

The new patented hearing protection solution is designed specifically for defense and security forces. GN says the solution offers the user a communication headset which is designed to be comfortable, highly durable, and protects the user against high volume noise. At the same time, by leveraging GN’s expertise within situational awareness, the solution allows its user to clearly identify important sound in 360°.

Anders Hedegaard

Anders Hedegaard

“The GN Group encompasses consumer, professional, and medical grade hearing technology under the same roof,” says CEO of GN Hearing, Anders Hedegaard. “This unique platform makes it possible to expand GN’s business into adjacent opportunities within the sound space. With our user-centric approach we aim to be the leader in intelligent audio solutions to transform lives through the power of sound.”

GN will be starting to build a small, swift group related to this new business opportunity. This year, GN will participate in military tenders in the United States and with other NATO-countries. The new product line will, under the name GN FalCom, include:

  • Comfort. Designed for optimal physical comfort allowing for multiple hours of use in extreme combat situations;
  • Clarity. Enables users to localize sounds all around them without the need to remove the earpiece. To maintain high quality communications at all times, GN FalCom will integrate seamlessly with military radio technology, and
  • Protection. Allows users to stay connected while benefitting from noise protection. For example, users will experience the highest level of safety without blocking out wanted sounds.

The  hearing protection solution builds on GN’s expertise in sound processing from both GN Hearing and GN Audio—and across R&D teams in the United States and Denmark. It is a successful result of corporate level investments made through GN’s Strategy Committee guided initiatives to explore opportunities outside of, but related to, GN’s existing business areas. According to the company, the hearing protection solution will be manufactured at GN’s existing production facilities in Bloomington, Minn, and will not impact GN’s financial guidance for 2018.

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Oticon Opn™ Outperforms Traditional and Narrow Directionality

With the Oticon Opn, users can expend less effort and recall more of what they encounter in a variety of complex listening environments. This open sound environment, powered by Oticon’s Velox platform, allows for greater speech comprehension, even in a challenging audiological setting with multiple speakers. With its OpenSound Navigator scanning the background 100 times per second, the Opn provides a clear and accurate sound experience.

 

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Want to know what A.I. Hell is like?

How about interacting with a machine that repeatedly professes stupefaction when you just know it should know what you’re talking about?

I was excited when I heard last fall that Alphabet’s (GOOGL) Google’s new wireless ear pieces would perform a kind of “real time” translation of languages, as it was billed.

The ear pieces, “Pixel Buds,” which arrived in the mail the other day, turn out to be rather limited and somewhat frustrating.

They are in a sense just a new way to be annoyed by the shortcomings of Google’s A.I., Google Assistant.

The devices were unveiled at Google’s “Made By Google” hardware press conference in early October, where it debuted its new Pixel 2 smartphone, which I’ve positively reviewed in this space, and its new “mini” version of the “Google Home” appliance.

The Buds retail for $159 and can be ordered from Google’s online store.

Google’s Pixel Buds: ‘Sorry, Can’t Help, But Always Learning’

Getting the things to pair with the Pixel 2 Plus that I use was problematic at first, but eventually succeeded after a series of attempts. I’ve noticed some similar issues with other Bluetooth-based devices, so I soldiered on and got it to work.

The sound quality and the fit is fine. The device is very lightweight, and the tether that connects the two ear pieces — they are not completely wireless like Apple’s (AAPL) AirPods — snakes around the back of one’s neck and is not uncomfortable.

The adjustable loops on each ear piece made the buds fit in my ears comfortably and stay there while I moved around. So, good job, Google, on industrial design.

Translating was another story.

One has to first install Google Translate, an application from Google of which I’m generally a big fan. Google supports translation in the app of 40 languages initially.

You invoke the app by putting your finger to the touch-sensitive spot on the right ear piece and saying something like, “Help me to speak Greek.” When you lift your finger, it invokes the Google Assistant on the Pixel 2 phone, who tells you in the default female voice that she will launch the Translate app.

Google’s Pixel Buds: ‘Sorry, Can’t Help, But Always Learning’

Several times, however, the assistant told me she had no idea how to help. Sometimes she understood the request the second time around. It seemed to be hit or miss whether my command was understood or was valid. On a number of other occasions, she told me she couldn’t yet help with a particular language, even though the language was among the 40 offered. It seemed like more common languages, such as French and Spanish, elicited little protest. But asking for, say, the Georgian language to be translated stumped her, even though Georgian is in the set of supported tongues.

This dialogue with the machine to get my basic wishes fulfilled fell very far below the Turing Test:

Me: “Help me to speak Greek.”

Google: “Sorry, I’m not sure how to help with that yet.”

Me: “Help me to translate Greek.”

Google: “Sure, opening Google Translate.”

Me: “Help me to speak Georgian.”

Google: “Sorry, I’m not sure how to help with that.”

Me: “Help me to speak Georgian.”

Google: “Sorry, I don’t understand.”

Me: “Help me to speak Georgian.”

Google: “Sorry, I can’t help with that yet, but I’m always learning.”

Me: “Help me to translate Georgian.”

Google: “Sorry, I don’t know how to help with that.”

In answer to Thomas Friedman of The New York Times, who writes of a new era of “continuous learning” for humans, I would like all humans to tell their future robot masters, “Sorry, I can’t help with that yet, but I’m always learning.”

When it does work, the process of translating is a little underwhelming. The app launches, and you touch the right ear piece’s touch-sensitive area, and speak your phrase in your native language. As you’re speaking, Google Translate is turning that into transcribed text on the screen, in the foreign script. When you are fully done speaking, the entire phrase is played back in the foreign language through the phone’s speaker for your interlocutor to hear. That person can then press an icon in the Translate app and speak to you in their native tongue, and their phrase is played for you, translated, through your ear piece.

Google’s Pixel Buds: ‘Sorry, Can’t Help, But Always Learning’

Even this doesn’t always go smoothly. Sometimes, after asking for help with one language, the Google Assistant would launch the Translate app and the app would be stuck on the previously used language. At other times, it was just fine. In the worst instances, the application would tell me it was having audio issues when I would tap the ear piece to speak, requiring me to kill the app and start again.

This is all rather cumbersome.

I went and tried Translate on my iPhone 7 Plus, using Apple’s AirPods, and had pretty much an equivalent experience, with somewhat less frustration. All I had to do was to double-tap the AirPods and say, “Launch Google Translate,” and then continue from there as normal. It’s slightly more limited in that the iPhone’s speaker is not playing back the translation for my interlocutor; that plays through the AirPods. But on the flip side, it’s actually a little easier to use the app because one can maintain a kind of “open mic” by pressing the microphone icon. The app will then continuously listen for whichever language is spoken, translating back and forth between the two constantly, rather than having to tell it at each turn who’s speaking.

All in all, then, Pixel Buds are just a fancy interface to Google Translate, which doesn’t seem to me revolutionary, and is rather less than what I’d hoped for, and very kludgy. It’s a shame, because I like Google Translate, and I like the whole premise of this enterprise.

At any rate, back to school, Google, keep learning.

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Eargo Launches Eargo Max Hearing Device

Screen Shot 2017-10-19 at 6.20.34 PM

Eargo, a direct-to-consumer hearing technology company, announced the launch of Eargo Max.

Eargo Max is designed with an all-new chip set and operating system as well as “Flexi Domes,” that are designed to help decrease feedback and increase gain while preserving speech clarity, according to Eargo.

Each hearing aid also comes with sound profile memory and voice indicators that are designed to make Eargo Max even easier to use than its predecessor.

“We asked our customers, ‘How can we make Eargo even better?’  With their help we developed Eargo Max, the best invisible hearing aid on the planet,” said Christian Gormsen, Eargo’s CEO. “We’re proud of our latest creation but not spending any time patting ourselves on the back.  There’s too much to do and we’re just getting started.”

Eargo provides support to clients transitioning to their hearing aids with the help of a team of licensed personal hearing guides. The company is backed by a group of investors (including NEA, The Nan Fung Group, Maveron, and Charles and Helen Schwab) who continue to invest their time, money, and resources into helping Eargo fulfill its mission.

Eargo Max Pricing & Availability

Eargo Max is available for purchase online at eargo.com or by phone at 1-800-61-EARGO. The Eargo hearing system is regularly priced at $2,500 but currently available for a limited time at the introductory price of $2,250. Financing is available for as low as $104 a month. Each purchase of an Eargo hearing aid comes with a 45-day money back guarantee, one-year warranty, and ongoing support by Eargo’s licensed hearing professionals. Eargo Max is only available in the United States.

Source: Eargo

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Hearing Centre in Henley - Naming Confusion

We would like to confirm WE ARE NOT the hearing aid ‘shop’ trading as Henley Hearing Care’ at 23 Hart Street. WE ARE The HEARING CLINIC HENLEY, based at 25 HART STREET, HENLEY-on-THAMES. Although we have historically traded in the area for longer, the new company ‘Henley Hearing Care’ deliberately and inconsiderately set up as the same name as we were trading as. After deliberation we felt it was more important to concentrate on our clinical excellence rather than waste time and resources on fighting a naming rights issue.
Since 2015 we have re-branded from Henley Hearing Centre to The Hearing Clinic to ensure that our more vulnerable patients are not left confused, mislead or taken advantage of. We are the only Independent Hearing Aid and Tinnitus Clinic in South Oxfordshire qualified to MSc Level and awarded Consultant Approved Status, Widex Centre of Excellence, BSHAA CEC Certified, Approved Unitron Centre, Resound Approved Centre and Starkey Approved Partner. In addition to being specialists in hearing aid technology, we specialise in tinnitus management and earwax removal (microsuction & irrigation).
Please choose your hearing healthcare provider carefully as there are differing levels of Hearing Healthcare Professional competence. The lowest qualification is a foundation degree in Hearing Aid Technology, this person is a hearing aid dispenser / hearing aid audiologist, most hearing aid ‘shops’ and national chains will recruit at this basic level, they are the equivalent to a dispensing optician / sales person. An Audiologist is the hearing equivalent to and ophthalmologist optician and will be better placed to deal with your hearing issues. These low level qualified individuals are often hard sales people and have limited understanding of hearing aid technology. They will often use FREE Hearing tests from your home to entice people to contact them. Once in your home they will often pressure you until you buy something, and potentially purchase something that is not completely right for you.
We have also had instances where certain companies are booking hearing events and home hearing tests pretending they are from our company, where in fact they have no affiliation to us. WE WILL NOT INSIST ON HOME VISITS and would prefer our patients to attend our clinic, so you are clear with who you are dealing with.
Please ask for ID from the person you are dealing with. Our professionals will always carry ID. We may provide home visits where patients are incapable of attending, however a greater degree of accuracy can be obtained from our clinic.
Further more you will only be seen by Leon Cox or Amanda Johns, please do not accept appointments from any other person.
TIPS FOR BUYING HEARING AIDS:
  1. Do not buy from home visit / sales people where possible. We continually hear from patients who have brought hearing aids from individuals who have never delivered any follow up care and have been left with unsatisfactory hearing aids. In some cases they are unable to contact that person again once they have handed over the money. Visit somewhere with premises with a good reputation.
  2. Research the company you are dealing with.
  3. Research the audiologist/sales person you are dealing with. If you can’t find reviews or professional information on that person they may not be very competent.
  4. Don’t buy hearing aids from companies who routinely offer FREE hearing tests. Any reputable company will charge for their time and advice. Companies offering FREE hearing tests are often desperate and you will ultimately pay for the test through inflated hearing aid prices. Often unscrupulous companies will offer FREE hearing tests and then charge you a NON-REFUNDABLE £150 FEE for impressions. The reality ultimately is you are paying £150 for the test.. this is not FREE.
  5. DO not fall for ‘buy one get one free’ or ‘50% discount’ hearing aids. Either the price will be inflated in the first place or the product the company will be often be ‘flogging’ will be old technology, if you are investing money in good healthcare the last thing you want is an obsolete hearing aid.
  6. Trial the hearing aids before you buy them. Any company offering money back guarantees are sales orientated. If someone is good at their job money back guarantees are irrelevant. Be sure before you buy, dont regret after!
If you would like to book a hearing test with one of our professionals please contact us on 01491 577555.
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What should I be able to hear?

hearing loss range1The Range of human hearing refers to the spectrum of pitch range and loudness levels a person hears between inaudible and the feeling of discomfort.

Loudness and pitch

The human hearing range depends on both the pitch of the sound – whether it is high or low – and the loudness of the sound. Pitch is measured in Hertz (Hz) and loudness is measured in decibels (dB).

A person with normal hearing, will have be able to hear pitches which start as low as about 20 Hz (e.g.  the same tone as the lowest pedal on a pipe organ), and extends to about 20,000Hz. While 20 to 20,000Hz forms the the extreme borders of the human hearing range at our peak, our hearing is most acute in the 2000 – 5000 Hz frequency range.

As far as loudness is concerned, humans can hear most frequencies at starting at 0 dB to around 11db. Sounds that are more than 85dB can be painful and ultimately dangerous to listen to for prolonged periods.

Examples of typical sounds:

Hearing loss2

Effectively and astonishingly, there are some sounds that humans can’t hear. For instance the sound of a dog whistle, which is extremely high pitch. Low frequency sounds are often felt as vibrations rather than heard as sound.

Hearing ranges of people with hearing loss

When you acquire hearing loss, it affects the range of your hearing. Most people will experience a loss of sensitivity which is often particularly more prominent in the higher pitch range. Certain speech sounds, and instruments like flutes will be more difficult to hear with hearing loss.

In order to gauge your actual hearing range a hearing aid audiologist will need to perform a hearing test and plot your thresholds on to an audiogram. An audiogram is a chart that shows the results of your hearing test. Your hearing test results are plotted on a graph and then compared with that of a person with normal levels of hearing. Hearing professionals use the audiogram to establish your hearing loss and as a tool for fitting hearing aids.

Here’s what an audiogram looks like:

Hearing loss3

This test shows your hearing “threshold” or the point where you can’t hear any more. This thresholds are recorded for both ears separately as two separate lines on your audiogram.The red line shows the level of hearing of a person’s right ear. The left ear is plotted with a blue line.

The area below the line shows the levels of hearing loss that this person can hear and the area above the line shows the levels that the person can’t hear.

Here are some common sounds plotted on a standard audiogram:

hearing loss4

What are your Next Steps

If you feel that your hearing range isn’t what it used to be, It’s a good idea to visit a hearing centre like ours for a full hearing test. We can determine whether or not you have hearing loss or whether you have wax problems or even more serious medical issues. We can then recommend a course of action if you do have a hearing loss.

Visit our Centres in Henley-on-thames or Chalfont, Amersham to get a hearing test today.

 

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Widex - How do we make hearing aid sound?

Widex hearing aids high wycombeThe best way to make sure that a hearing aid sounds good is to test it… and test it … and test it … and test it …  thousands of times. But whose job is it to create and test the sound that comes out of your hearing aids – and how is it done?

That job belongs to the Widex Research and Development team – a group of engineers who work tirelessly to ensure that the “Widex Sound” is the most natural hearing aid sound around.

The listening test

Jens Peter Holmegaard is one of the faces behind the Widex sound. He’s a hearing aid research and development engineer who has been designing Widex hearing aids for 7 years.

We sat down with Jens and asked how he and his colleagues make sure that sound from our hearing aids is as true to real-life as it can possibly be.

And the answer is simple: he listens.

He listens to everything – from speech, to music, to the sound of a microwave. It’s Jens’ job to make sure that the sounds of your everyday life are perfectly replicated by your hearing aids.

“Our library of sounds includes everything from water running in the sink, to pork chops frying, to birds singing,” says Jens. “They’re all sounds that have characteristics that are important to the hearing aid user.”

But listening to those sounds once isn’t enough. With every small tweak or change comes a new round of testing – which means listening to those sounds hundreds or even thousands of times.

“I become very familiar with those sounds,” says Jens. “They’re often not sounds I want to hear when I get home.”

And it’s not just everyday sounds – it’s music too. A favorite test song at Widex is Suzanne Vega’s “Tom’s Diner” because of its range of tones and pitches. It also has a steady bass line and a repetitive chorus – all good for testing purposes.

Creating the Widex sound

To find out more about how Widex hearing aids get their true-to-life sound, it’s important to take a step back to where the whole process begins. Developing a new hearing aid can often take five or more years and it all starts with the experiences and wishes of existing hearing aid users which are gathered and transformed into ideas for new products at the engineers´ drawing board.

For example, Widex got the idea to develop its audibility extender after realizing that some hearing aid users were having difficulty hearing upper frequency sounds. The extender moves these sounds to a lower frequency region where it is easier to hear them.

After the brainstorming phase, ideas are scheduled for development. That’s where the sound library comes in. As features like the audibility extender are created, rounds of testing begin. Sounds like birdsong, bells, and timers are used to test upper frequency sounds that the audibility extender helps hearing aid users to hear.

“It gives us a frame of reference for the hearing aid feature we are developing,” says Jens. “We listen to how this feature helps the sound in real-life situations and tweak it to make it sound as natural as possible.”

The final test

After a feature is developed, the technology is added to the physical hearing aid. But that’s not where the story ends. Hearing aids are then tested again by specially-trained sound expert who make sure that the technology is working correctly.

Hearing aids are then produced and shipped to your hearing professional, who will program them to fit your particular hearing loss.

The features

Which hearing aid features have Widex developed over the past years? Here are just a few of the ones found in our devices:

Audibility Extender – The Audibility Extender helps people with high frequency hearing loss to hear upper frequency sounds by moving these sounds to a lower frequency region where it is easier to hear them. The upper frequency sounds are important for hearing the “softer” sounds like /s/ and /t/ in women´s and children´s voices and high-pitched sounds like the “ping” of the microwave.

Telecoil – A telecoil is a small coil inside your hearing aids. The coil works as a small receiver which picks up signals from a loop system that acts as an electromagnetic field. Hearing aids with an activated telecoil can convert this electromagnetic field into a sound signal. Only the signal from the loop system’s microphone is amplified, and background noise is shut out.

Speech Enhancer – The Speech Enhancer is different from simple noise reduction systems in that it doesn´t just dampen noise – it also amplifies speech. When we listen to a sound, we are rarely in doubt as to whether it is speech or noise. The Speech Enhancer in modern hearing aids is able to distinguish the two in much the same way as our brains do – by using the fact that speech consists of a number of varying sound components that follow each other at brief intervals.

If you would like to listen to the latest hearing aids for yourself then why not book in with Henley Hearing Centre, Oxford and test them for yourself, with no obligation. Call us on 01494 765144.

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Hearing loss tips: how to tell others

hearing improvements to hearing with hearing aidsHearing loss can affect your work, family, friendships, and love life – and these relationships could suffer if you try to hide or ignore that you have a hearing loss.

Hearing aids go a long way to help people with hearing loss to better communicate. But even with the most advanced digital hearing aids, there can be situations where it is important to point out that you have a hearing loss.

We have come up with some tips to help you talk about hearing loss with your friends, family, and coworkers. Chances are that you behave a little bit differently around each of these groups of people, so the conversation you have about your hearing loss should be catered to each group.

Friends and Family

American author Alex Haley once said that, “In every conceivable manner, the family is link to our past, bridge to our future.” Family members can help to understand how and why your hearing loss developed and support you in finding solutions to your hearing loss.

Similar to family, friends are often the people who know you best – and they may have already noticed that you have a hearing loss. It’s in their best interest to help you communicate, because communication the basis of a good friendship!

But sometimes it is hardest to talk about these things with the people we are close to. You might not want your family to worry about you or meddle in your personal life. But the truth is – your family and friends may have been aware of your hearing loss long before you were. According to the Hearing Loss Association of America:

One’s family and friends are likely to be the first to notice some difficulty hearing, long before the person does. Typically at this stage, the individual will deny a problem. This is understandable, since there is usually great variability in how the person functions in various situations and with different people. In some situations and with some people, he or she may do pretty well.

Bringing up your hearing loss may be a way to unleash the “elephant in the room” that your close family members knew about but never mentioned. That’s how it was for Reina, who says the best way to talk about hearing loss is to be direct.

Tips for family members

Your family and friends probably want ways to help you hear better, but aren’t sure how.

Try to offer these tips for family members:

  • “Try to catch my attention before you speak to me. It’s easier for me to understand when I am looking at you.”
  • “Speak clearly and at a moderate pace – but don’t go overboard. I’ll let you know if you’re going too fast.”
  • “Use body language to show what you are saying.”
  • “Repeat yourself if it doesn’t seem like I heard you.”

If you haven’t sought professional help for your hearing loss, family members can help by finding a local hearing professional, accompanying you to your first hearing evaluation, and helping you choose your hearing aids.

Coworkers

Talking to your boss or coworkers about your hearing loss can be more difficult than speaking with family or friends. You may be worried that your boss will see your hearing loss as a weakness that could affect your work. The Hearing Loss Association of America surveyed their members about their workplace experience with hearing loss in 2013. Here are a few of the responses:

Q: What are your experiences interviewing for a job?  

A: It was very stressful and many of the social situations that went with the interviews were less than ideal for somebody with hearing loss. However, since I had to give a talk every time I interviewed, I let people know then about my loss. I did not worry too much that possible employers would discriminate against me, as I work in academia, and find most academics pretty open minded.

———————————-

Q: Are your co-workers sensitive to your communication needs?  

A: Yes, but they often forget, or don’t realize just how many types of situations are impacted by the hearing loss.

——————————-

Q: Does your employer and/or co-workers know you have a hearing loss?  

A: Yes. It is something I try to make everybody aware of. I point it out also to my students when I teach and audiences when I give a talk.

As you can see from the responses, your experience with hearing loss in the workplace can vary based on your specific job and your coworkers. Here are some general tips to use in a conversation about hearing loss with your employer:

  • Stay positive: Address your hearing loss and tell your employer how you cope with it. If you wear hearing aids, tell him/her how the technology helps you to hear. Point out specific times when your hearing was particularly good on the job.
  • Ask for help: After you have pointed out the positives, tell your employers about your challenges and how they can be helped. If you require assistive listening devices, explain how they would work in your workplace.
  • Offer Tips: Tell your coworkers how they can help you to better communicate by emphasizing the communication tips above. These tips work for anyone, not just family and friends.
  • Know your rights: Many countries have laws to protect people with hearing loss in the workplace. Read up on what sort of accommodation you are entitled to and be prepared to explain this to your employer in the most non-threatening way possible. If you have noise-induced hearing loss that you feel was caused by your work environment you may also be entitled to compensation.
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