We Need More Hearing Awareness

Last week, a retired physician and good friend of mine, sent me an article from the New England Journal of Medicine. The piece, written by a Cochlear Implant Surgeon, made some very good points about hearing loss in general and the need for the medical community to be aware of how cochlear implants and hearing aids can improve the lives of patients with hearing loss.

I applaud such write ups. I’ve always felt that family physicians lack awareness when it comes to the needs of their patients who suffer from hearing loss. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told my internist about my hearing loss only to have him shrug and say, how can I make it easier for you to understand me? I tell myself that he cares that we communicate appropriately, but he has never discussed the ramifications that hearing loss has on my life. Nor has he explored ways to correct my hearing.

Before the governor of Florida locked down our state due to coronavirus, I attended a hearing conference, north of my hometown. At the conference I learned how many local physicians promote hearing awareness. For instance, one C.I. Surgeon had written numerous editorials in the local newspaper explaining how hearing loops in restaurants can help diners with hearing loss. Background noise is the enemy of those with hearing loss, he explained. By connecting to a loop, a person wearing aids or cochlear implants can almost eliminate background noise, thus making it easier to hear those seated near them. His writings resulted in two restaurants installing loops for their patrons.

We need more of that kind of awareness. Think about it. How many of your friends or family know about hearing loops? How many people are aware of the benefits of closed captioning to those who can’t hear normally? How many understand the difference between hearing aids and cochlear implants and the particulars of each device?

I have friends who realize the scope of my hearing needs while others assume that because I wear hearing aids all is well. To compensate for the later, I show up in restaurants ten minutes (remember the days when we could go to restaurants?) before the reservation so I can pick out the right corner table and sit with my back against a wall, thus creating a good hearing situation. If I leave a restaurant table choice up to some of my dining companions, I end up in the middle of the room, overwhelmed by din.

Not long ago, I wrote an article about the popularity of closed captioning among normal hearing folks. It seems that when watching their favorite streaming series, some people find that closed captioning makes it easier to understand actors and actresses who speak with foreign accents. Television volumes are turned down and closed captioning is turned on to avoid waking a sleeping child or spouse. The editor who published my article wrote back to me and said he sent a copy of my article to three of his friends, hoping they would promote the use of captioning.

As we meander through the hearing world, let’s get the word out about hearing loss. Let’s tell our friends and family, business associates, and acquaintances about our hearing needs. Maybe an increase in awareness about hearing loss will create a more hearing-friendly world.