Do you often say,
- “I hear you, but I don’t understand you!”
- “Can you repeat that, please?”
Do your family members comment that the television volume is too loud? Do you sometimes miss the punch line when someone tells a joke? Do you feel mentally drained after attending work, social, or religious events with presenters? These can all be early signs of hearing loss.
If you are noticing any of these difficulties, it may be time to have your hearing evaluated. If you have hearing loss, aural rehabilitation could be recommended.
What Is Aural Rehabilitation?
Aural rehabilitation uses strategies to improve communication of people with hearing loss. The goals of aural rehabilitation are to improve conversational ability and reduce limitations caused by hearing loss, improving quality of life.
Who Is a Candidate for Aural Rehabilitation?
Any individual with hearing loss that is noticing difficulty communicating may be a good candidate for aural rehabilitation. If you find yourself withdrawing from activities that you used to enjoy because it is too hard to hear or stay involved in conversations, aural rehabilitation may be of benefit. If you often feel frustrated when trying to listen, aural rehabilitation may be able to help.
Who Provides Aural Rehabilitation Services?
Your first step, if you notice or suspect a change in your ability to understand conversation, is a comprehensive diagnostic hearing evaluation by an audiologist. After your evaluation, your audiologist may suggest aural rehabilitation. Depending on the aural rehabilitation plan, your audiologist will likely be able to provide the necessary services.
What Recommendations Can I Expect from an Audiologist?
In your aural rehabilitation plan, treatment options for hearing loss may include:
- Assistive and alerting devices
- Communication tips
- Hearing aids
- Auditory training
Assistive and Alerting Devices
Assistive listening devices (ALDs) are devices used with or without hearing aids, bone-anchored implants, and cochlear implants to make sounds more accessible to people with varying degrees of hearing impairment.
Many people with hearing loss depend on or can benefit from some kind of ALD to help them develop or maintain a comfortable level of independence in their daily lives.
ALDs vary depending on the situation and the hearing difficulty. These devices include:
- Remote microphones
- FM and sound field systems
- T-coils and loop systems
- Alerting devices (e.g., flashing doorbell ringer, vibrating alarm clock)
You may already use some ALDs such as Bluetooth streaming, TV headsets, and closed captions!
Your audiologist will also work with you on your communication strategies including, but not limited to:
Avoid saying “What?” or “Huh?” Instead, try to make a specific clarification request. Be specific about what you did and did not understand. If the speaker mumbles or speaks in a quiet voice, ask them to please speak more clearly or louder. Ask the person talking to slow down and take breaks between thoughts (but not draaawwww ouuuuutttt wooooorrrrds). Encourage people you are talking to not to cover their mouth with their hand when they speak.
Let them know when there is trouble. Your difficulty hearing and likely your hearing aids are not visible to the people you converse with. They may forget to speak in a manner helpful to you. One way to overcome this is to explain that you are really interested in hearing what they have to say and that you would like to use a cue, like tapping your ear or your mouth, to remind them of the best ways to communicate with you.
Reduce background noise. Background noise (music, people talking, dishes clanking, television, etc) can create greater difficulty for people with hearing loss and/or hearing aids to understand speech. You might choose quieter restaurants with soft furnishings and high-back booths, move the social gathering out of the kitchen into the carpeted den, or mute TV and music to have a conversation. Anticipate difficult listening situations and think about your communication strategy. Your audiologist can help you with these strategies.
Face the person. Tell your family, coworkers, doctors, and friends that you communicate most easily if you can see their face. They should look at you when speaking and not talk from behind you or another room.
Attention is key. It is not uncommon to misunderstand what someone says if your attention is on something else, like an email or a TV show. Remind people to get your attention first by saying your name or tapping you on the shoulder so you can be ready to listen.
It takes two. Communication takes two people. Yes, many people mumble, speak too fast, cover their mouths, and/or drop the volume of their voices at the end of sentences. If you are using hearing aids and paying attention, you are fulfilling your end of the effort to communicate effectively, and you can feel good about that! Keep in mind that communication habits are hard to change. You may need to remind people you speak with regularly the best ways to communicate with you. They will likely find these strategies helpful when talking with anyone, not just someone with hearing loss!
Many people with hearing loss can achieve greatly improved hearing through appropriately fit hearing aids. Your audiologist will recommend certain styles and types of hearing aids based on your hearing, cosmetic preferences, and your lifestyle and communication needs.
Listening is a skill that can be practiced and improved upon. Some audiologists may recommend activities or even programs to improve skills such as speechreading, hearing in noise and speech discrimination.
Are There Benefits to Aural Rehabilitation?
Successful aural rehabilitation strengthens communication abilities of a person with hearing loss. It can have long term effects on participation in social activities, reducing mental burden during conversations, and improving overall quality of life.
Do You Need to See an Audiologist?
Approximately 48 million Americans have hearing loss. Although hearing problems are associated with the aging process, more than half of all people with hearing loss are younger than 65. There are many causes of hearing loss: loud noises, ear infections, ear trauma, ear disease, illness and disease, certain medications, and of course, the aging process. Most hearing losses are permanent and cannot be treated with medication or surgery. Your audiologist will determine the type and degree of your hearing loss and the best treatment plan.
If you suspect your hearing has changed, “Find an Audiologist” and set up an appointment to have your hearing checked.