|Elissa Robb is a Registered Audiologist & Hearing Instrument Practitioner for Wavefront Centre for Communication Accessibility. One of the best parts of her job is providing clients and their families with the gift of sound. “I still get goosebumps when I witness families reconnect on a deeper level once our services are introduced. It’s incredible!” exclaims Elissa. We’re pleased to share Elissa’s answers to common questions about hearing loss.|
I have hearing loss and what often surprises me is how frustrated some people get when they are communicating with me. I often want to ask: “Do you get annoyed if someone in a wheelchair can’t manage stairs? Do you get irritated when somebody who is blind can’t see how many fingers you are holding up?”
The answers to these oft-asked questions will hopefully help people understand what it is like for myself and the 4.6 million Canadians who have some degree of hearing loss (StatsCan, 2019). Trust me, we’re not asking you to repeat yourself just to be funny – just like you’re not purposefully speaking in tones that my hearing aids don’t pick up.
When the Rick Hansen Foundation reached out and asked if I would like to share my experiences with hearing loss in a guest blog, I was excited. It is the perfect opportunity to help educate and offer some insight for those who have somebody with hearing loss in their lives or are perhaps experiencing their own.
1. Will hearing aids give me perfect hearing?
Hearing aids are exactly that – aids. While you’ll hear a lot better when you use them, they are not going to provide similar hearing to that of somebody without hearing loss. Hearing aids cannot restore the natural function of the ear. They serve as a way to amplify existing hearing capabilities so their performance is dictated by the wearer’s hearing loss.
2. Does everybody with hearing loss know how to lip read well?
While many D/deaf and hard-of-hearing people can lip read to varying levels, it’s a learned skill that requires a lot of practice so don’t assume. It’s worthwhile to mention that many with hearing loss currently experience increased levels of anxiety in their day-to-day interactions due to masks covering mouths which makes communication all that much more difficult.
If you are interested in improving communication skills, regardless of whether or not you have hearing loss, there are online courses that specialize in lipreading (or speech reading). The Canadian Hard of Hearing Association offers online speech reading courses.
3. Will I look old if I wear a hearing aid?
Nope. Children, teens, young adults, adults, and mature adults can all have varying degrees of hearing loss for a variety of reasons. Perhaps they were born with it, or developed it later in life. Many wear hearing aids to help them hear (it’s important to note that some culturally Deaf people choose not to) . The negative stigma around hearing aids is not only silly and outdated but also harmful. We’re used to people wearing eyeglasses, let’s get used to people wearing hearing aids!
4. Will I be heard better if I shout or turn up the volume?
Thank you for shouting at me – said no person ever. Louder isn’t always better. In fact, it usually worsens the ability to have a conversation Shouting or raising the volume often distorts the signal. When somebody uses lip-reading for communication, shouting also distorts the movements of the mouth which make understanding even more difficult than if the speaker were just to enunciate their words.
Our suggestion is using the 10% rule. Increase the volume of your voice by 10% and speak 10% slower to allow for clarity of your speech.
5. Will my family doctor tell me if I have hearing loss?
Some family doctors may do a general screening of your ears in their office called the whisper test where doctors whisper a combination of numbers and letters into your ear. This does not accurately indicate frequency-specific hearing thresholds so it’s a great idea to have your hearing tested by an audiologist at a hearing clinic to get a baseline of your hearing levels.
6. Do I need a referral to get my hearing tested?
You can self-refer for a hearing test. Make an appointment with one of the audiologists at Waterfront Centre for Communication Accessibility. We have two locations in Vancouver and one in Port Coquitlam, British Columbia.