DEAR DOCTOR K:
I suffer from minor hearing loss, but not bad enough for a hearing aid. My wife complains about the volume on the TV, and I can’t always keep up with conversations at a party or restaurant. I’m not looking for a technological fix just yet. Can you give me some practical solutions?
I’m happy to share some practical tips for dealing with minor hearing loss. Before I do, though, I’d advise you to see a doctor. Hearing loss may be caused by a variety of things, including an underlying health condition.
If you are experiencing normal, age-related hearing loss, you may at some point benefit from a hearing aid. In the meantime, here are some listening strategies that should help you to get the most out of a conversation or public event:
- Come in for a close-up. Move within six to 10 feet of the other person and focus on his or her face. You may not be a lip reader, but you can pick up a lot of cues from a person’s mouth and facial expressions. If you’re in a group, position yourself so that you can see everyone.
- Put your best ear forward. If one ear has better hearing than the other, try to keep it toward the speaker.
- Ban shouting. Ask friends and family to come into the same room to talk to you, not to shout from a distance.
- Listen up. Follow the speaker closely. Once you become familiar with someone’s speaking patterns and style, you’ll be better able to pick up words and phrases that might otherwise be confusing.
- Stake out your turf. If you’re going to a talk or live performance, try to find a seat about six rows from the front and in line with the speaker’s face. At the theater or movies, try to get an unobstructed view. If you can, avoid sitting under a balcony. Try out an assistive-listening device if one is available.
- Enlist your smartphone. By downloading one of several free apps and adding a pair of earbuds or wireless headphones, you can convert your smartphone into an entry-level hearing aid. All of the apps amplify sounds picked up on your phone’s microphone. Several also have features common to a digital hearing aid. For instance, they can focus on close or distant sounds and adjust levels of background noise.
I’m in the same position as you. I have mild hearing loss, and I’d like to at least postpone using a hearing aid. I’ve tried all of these tips except the last, and I can confirm that they help me.
Although I’d like to postpone using one, things have changed a lot in the world of hearing aids. They are both better and smaller, no longer large and unsightly. Hearing loss falls into the category of ailments that, if you have to have them, are easier to deal with in this century than in the last.