When you think of hearing loss, you tend to only think about how it impacts you physically. The thought of not hearing your favorite songs and struggling to understand friends or family is frightening, but we rarely stop to consider the other implications that it can have on your life. Unfortunately, hearing loss is too common, with one in eight people over 12 suffering from it. It is therefore essential to understand how this problem can change other aspects of your life. Let’s take a look at how hearing loss can impact communication in adults and children.
Communication is the key to being able to understand and interact with others around you. Without good communication skills, people will often tend to feel isolated, depressed, and helpless. Communication is also vital in our professional lives, with many job opportunities requiring excellent communication and listening skills. Therefore, people who have hearing loss can be at a disadvantage socially and professionally.
What Is Hearing Loss?
A person suffers from hearing loss if they aren’t able to hear as well as someone with normal hearing. This means a hearing threshold of 20 dB or better.
There are three main types of hearing loss that we can use to diagnose people:
- Sensorineural Hearing Loss — This can be caused by a range of things like loud noises, disease, inherited conditions, drugs, etc. These conditions damage the hair-like cells in the auditory nerve or inner ear. This prevents the sounds and information required to hear from getting transmitted to the brain. Unfortunately, this form of hearing loss is irreversible.
- Conductive Hearing Loss — Generally caused by a blockage or a problem in the middle or outer ear, which prevents sounds from reaching the eardrum. This can be permanent or temporary.
- Mixed Hearing Loss — This occurs when you have a mixture of the two previously mentioned types of hearing loss.
Difficulty Understanding Speech
During speech, the frequencies and intensities vary depending on the speech sound. For example, if we take the word spoon, the “sp” is spoken at a higher frequency than the “oon” section of the word. The higher frequencies are often far more difficult to hear/understand for people suffering from hearing loss. This means that word processing becomes far more challenging as your brain has to try and interpret the part of the word you are unable to hear. This makes communication difficult and exhausting.
Background Noise as an Obstacle
One of the biggest obstacles that people with hearing loss have to face is dealing with noisy environments. Many people with hearing loss can still become successful communicators in certain quieter settings. Unfortunately, things become far more complicated when placed in environments with high levels of background noise. This background noise immerses the ear with noise, which means other sounds compete with the signals you are trying to listen to.
Communication and Hearing Loss with Children
Children start to develop their communications skills from the moment they are born. However, this process of learning to communicate can become delayed if they suffer from a form of hearing loss. Unfortunately, hearing loss is found in two to three children out of every 1000, which means that many children require appropriate management to become effective communicators.
Hearing loss can impact children’s language and speech skills development, leading to the area of their brain used for communication not developing as it should.
Most hearing loss cases are identified by tests carried out at birth. However, many will not be diagnosed until later when language or speech skills don’t appear to be progressing at an expected rate. Identifying the problem as early as possible is vital, as it can then be better managed and lead to better development for the child.
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Children with hearing loss generally struggle with developmental aspects like making speech sounds, learning new words, constructing sentences, expressing themselves, following instructions, and making friends, or interacting with others. These can all put the child at a major disadvantage compared to children with normal hearing. However, consistent help from parents and caregivers makes the learning process more manageable by actively engaging them with speech-language strategies.
How to Improve Communication
Although speech is a significant part of communication it is not the only way that we communicate. Body language, facial expressions, and gestures are sometimes even more beneficial to get your message across. When communicating with someone with hearing loss, it is a good idea to follow the following tips:
- Make sure you have the person’s attention.
- Face the person.
- Stand close to the person.
- Speak more slowly than usual.
- Raise your voice, but try not to shout.
- Utilize hand and body movements.
- Use a pen and paper occasionally.
Hearing loss can present sufferers with daily challenges that others without hearing loss don’t have to contend with. However, although hearing loss has life-changing implications, there are hearing solutions that can help you live as normal. Hearing aids are small electronic devices that can impact your life by helping you hear as normal. Contact your local hearing specialist to find out more about the best solutions for hearing loss.