HEARING VIEWS

In July, 2016, the Hearing Views blog was retired after long years of dedicated, thought-provoking service. But we're agreed that so much rich content should live on, to be discovered by new readers and referenced by earlier readers. Hearing Views discussed important issues that impact both audiology professionals and the people with hearing loss that they serve. Topics ranged from education and advocacy to industry, technology and the client-professional relationship, and more. While no longer accepting comments on individual posts we'd still appreciate hearing from you at Info@HearingHealthMatters.org.


By David H. Kirkwood

All of us can look back to our childhood and remember teachers who made a positive and permanent difference in our lives.  I was fortunate to have quite a few, including Miss Lamb, my first grade teacher, who not only taught me to read, but also showed me how much fun it was. In high school, Mr. Warren’s lively and thought-provoking course in American history helped inspire me to major in history in college.

As it turned out, I left history for journalism. For that, I must give some credit (or blame) to Mrs. Call, who was my English teacher in eighth and ninth grades. She was not flamboyant, not one of those colorful characters who are the stuff of school legend. Rather she was serious, low-key, and deeply caring. Above all, she was determined, against all odds, to teach a class of 13- and 14-year-olds to become more discerning readers and more effective writers.

I recall an exercise that Mrs. Call sometimes assigned us.  She would hand out an article of 750 words or so on some random topic. Our job was to winnow it down to maybe half its original length, but without losing its essential content. It was an enjoyable challenge at the time. But it was not until 15 years later, when I became editor of a weekly newspaper, that I fully realized the value of Mrs. Call’s lesson. The ability to take a draft or a press release, remove all the excess verbiage, and turn it into a clear, concise article is at the very heart of what editors do.

 

IT DOESN’T HAVE TO HAPPEN

I was reminded, sadly, of Mrs. Call a couple of years ago when I was visiting my mother, who still lives in Ithaca, NY, where I grew up.  My mother customarily cuts out and saves items from the local paper for me. On this occasion, she showed me an obituary for Mrs. Call.

While I was sorry to learn of the death of a favorite teacher, what I found especially distressing was the obituary’s report that Mrs. Call had been forced to retire from teaching in middle age because of a serious hearing loss.  I felt bad for her, having to cut short a successful career that she must have loved.

I also thought of the many hundreds of young people who missed out on having Mrs. Call nurture their appreciation of good books and hone their writing skills. And I also felt angry about what happened because, chances are, it didn’t have to.

Granted, I don’t know the particulars of my former teacher’s hearing problems, nor do I know what the state of the art in hearing aids and classroom assistive technology was when she gave up her career. Maybe 30 years ago she had no good options.

In 2011, we have much more advanced solutions to hearing loss. We also have the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which, among other purposes, is designed to help employees with disabilities succeed in the workplace. So now, at least in theory, talented teachers should not be forced out of the classroom by hearing loss—or other disabilities that can be accommodated.

However, I can’t help suspecting that hearing loss is still needlessly drawing the curtain on careers in teaching and other professions where society can ill afford to lose good people. One problem about hearing loss is that its insidious nature makes it easy to deny until it becomes advanced and more difficult to treat successfully. Moreover, people with untreated hearing loss are often perceived as becoming less competent, no longer fully with it. When the situation reaches this point, the teacher and the school may lack confidence that the person can regain his or her former excellence.

 

THERE ARE SOLUTIONS

What’s the take-home message? Basically, it’s that everyone involved in schools should be mindful of the growing incidence of hearing impairment with age and take steps to address (or prevent) it before it’s too late. For teachers and principals, that means being alert to signs of impaired hearing in themselves and in their colleagues. School districts could help by offering free hearing tests to faculty.

Classroom acoustics are notoriously bad. Anything that can be done to improve audibility, especially in elementary schools where the kids are loud and ear infections are common, would help even normal-hearing teachers and students.  Lowering the noise level would also protect teachers’ hearing.

I could go on, but I’m up to 759 words. If Mrs. Call were reading this, she’d tell me to wrap it up. So here is a final thought:

If hearing loss is damaging a teacher’s performance, it is in everyone’s interests to address the situation promptly. Education is too important for us ever to allow a teacher’s talents to be squandered.

Published originally April, 2011 at HHTM with new Feature Image courtesy of Cochlear

By Lolly Wigall

Humans are designed to have relationships. People are raised in families who communicate with each other. Language is a beautiful creation. Sharing life’s experiences, both the joys and sorrows are part of living. Becoming friends with our neighbors is part of life. Attending public meetings such as religious and civic organizations has been a part of life since the beginning of time. One of my core beliefs is that people need people. We want to make friends and be in families where we can give and receive love and support.

family

Like anyone else, people with hearing loss want to remain connected with family and friends. Hearing aids can help! Image courtesy healthearizonaplus.gov 

Hearing aids are wonderful inventions. Just like any invention, they are not perfect but they provide some relief from a problem. Clearly hearing aids give benefit to the wearers. And, something we don’t talk often enough about, relief to the family and friends of the wearer. Most often they are tired of repeating and repeating what was said. Hearing aids provide a great service to people.

One major aspect of hearing loss is that the ability to communicate is hampered when one person in the relationship does not hear well. Miscommunications become commonplace.

There have been numerous studies on people with hearing loss becoming depressed and withdrawn. As an industry we talk about clients who do not hear well have become socially isolated and withdrawn.

 

People never complain that they want to hear less! My attitude toward these complaints is “Hooray!” I am thrilled that people come into the office saying they want to hear better.

 

I believe people really do want to hear well. In fact most people who come into the office to “complain” talk about frustrating situations where they couldn’t hear well. They desperately want to be part of the conversations. They want to hear their spouses, children, grandchildren and friends. They never complain that they are hearing too much of the conversation.

 

Do People Really Want Hearing Aids?

 

We are not selling a product that people do not want. Instead we are selling a product that people are desperate to have.

Our clients purchase better and better technology. Once someone begins to wear hearing aids they purchase the best product they can afford. It is wonderful to tell patients about new advances in technology. Some wearers remember the bad old days of analog hearing aids. And, not surprisingly, they do not miss those days, but are excited about being able to hear better in noisy situations. They really enjoy the ability Bluetooth gives them to connect to their smart phones. They embrace the technology in today’s world.

 

People desperately want to be connected to their family and friends. They do want to hear and enjoy life. People with hearing loss are desperate to hear well.

 

Most of our clients are repeat customers. Persons who begin to wear hearing aids generally purchase multiple sets in their lifetime. They do not go without hearing once they realize how much they have been missing. Wearers of hearing aids usually want a backup pair—just for emergencies. They know that life is lonely and isolating if they are not hearing well. Patients proudly bring all their sets of hearing aids in to be cleaned and checked. They want to be prepared to hear well.

One aspect of audiology that is rewarding to me personally is the relationships and bonds that I have made with clients over the years. True friendships have developed. Patients are not patients to me. They are friends who want to hear the best they can.

 

Feelings of Stress Turn to Relief

 

When new patients come to the office they are nervous that I am going to confirm that they are not hearing well. Most of the time they admit they have known they were not hearing well for some time, usually years. But, they have been managing to hear most of what they want to hear. I ask what made them finally come in for a test. Most times they admit they are missing out on conversations with loved ones and friends. Sometimes they “blame” their spouse or children. But, most times they just desperately want to hear better.

When I tell them that they do have a hearing loss and that hearing aids will help them hear better, they relax. They know help is available. I enjoy the look on their face when I ask them what color of hearing aid they would like. They usually laugh and say, “You’re kidding!” Then I show them the selection available. Now, they know that life can be fun and that hearing aids are different than they might have thought.

I can see the excitement in their eyes of choosing a device that will help solve some communication problems. Instead of being nervous and upset about having to wear hearing aids, their attitude is one of excitement and anticipation. Now, they can’t wait for their hearing aids. They do not want to wait too long to hear better. They cannot wait to start a new chapter in their lives. They want to be part of conversations and hear the sounds in the world better. Our clients do desperately want hearing aids.

 

*Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared at Hearing Views on October 21, 2014. Last updated August 15, 2016. Title image courtesy myhealth.va.gov