Most people have experienced some difficulty when trying to have a conversation in a setting like a boisterous restaurant. When this happens, people often find themselves "faking it" through the conversation or just tuning out entirely. But, for someone with difficulty hearing or understanding speech, even everyday settings like these are challenging.
When someone experiences a hearing loss and has difficulty understanding speech, there are typically three options that an individual will decide between when engaged in conversation:
1. Ask others to repeat,
2. Pretend that they understand and heard the conversation, or
3. Ignore the conversation.
For most, none of these options are particularly appealing due to the stigma attached to each possible choice. If you ask them to repeat and you still don't understand, what next? You might think to yourself, "Will they think I'm stupid?" Or if you pretend to understand the conversation and provide an inaccurate or incoherent response, "Will they think I'm uninterested, or will I be embarrassed?" Also, if you ignore the conversation, you run the risk of seeming rude or distant. These concerns can lead to feelings of sadness, shame, and embarrassment.
Impact on Relationships
The relationship suffers when those emotions carry over into our relationships with family, friends, or coworkers. Often, the individual will begin to withdraw from social activities, become much quieter at family gatherings, or try to avoid speaking on the telephone. For those with long-term partners or adult children, an individual with hearing loss can begin to rely or depend on the other person to act as a "human hearing aid," which can further strain the relationship.
Those experiencing difficulty hearing can use some basic strategies to reduce the frustration, shame, or potential embarrassment of the individual with hearing loss and are generally good practice for those without a loss. Asking people to rephrase what they are saying or sharing what parts of the message you heard can be validating to the speaker and demonstrate that you were actively listening. Additionally, reducing as much noise in the conversation environment can benefit everyone (e.g., turning off the television or radio).
Beyond the basic strategies described , amplification can be helpful to those with hearing loss by providing more audibility of the speech sounds they might be missing. With improved audibility, you can stay better connected to those around you and help keep your relationships strong. If any of the feelings discussed sound like something you or a loved one may have experienced, consider taking Our Zepp Clarity online free hearing assessment to determine if you might benefit from the Zepp Clarity One hearing aid system.