The Veterans Administration seemingly does not stop for anything where health care is concerned at times. At least that was my impression as I attended a Saturday appointment with an Audiologist at 7:00AM - yes; really!
To attend this appointment, I had to drive from Colorado Springs to Denver, a drive of approximately an hour and twenty minutes or so north. The Audiology department opens promptly at seven, no joke about it. I was at the desk with my VA identification card out.
The person I was expecting to encounter was some middle-aged, burly and gruff kind of guy who was not all that enthused about being there at such an early hour. The Audiologist I actually encountered was nothing like what I expected. She was very polite, friendly, easy to get along with, and highly educated. She was skilled beyond belief and able to spot exactly what was going on with my hearing.
The examination went very well and involved a number of tests. One of the first involved a small plug that tested how my ear drum responded to certain waves applied to it. My left ear did well, 'Ok,' and my right ear drum did, 'so-so.' The Audiologist then inserted some foam ear plugs into my ears with clear tubes attached; tubes she was able to play sounds through from another room next to the, 'quiet room,' I was in.
The next test involved all of the classic, 'beeps,' and, 'boops,' an Audiologist plays into a person's ears to test the range of tones a person is able to detect. Apparently I am having trouble hearing low tones, as well as some others. She then asked me to respond to a rather military tape that we both kind of smiled about. This tape played a series of words I was asked to respond to. The tape said, 'You will say...,' followed by the word I had to repeat. The tape played twenty-five words for me to repeat, each one of which was prefaced by the, 'you will say...' statement.
One of the main reasons I asked to be seen by the VA Audiologist is because I not only have trouble hearing what Wendy is saying, but I also experience the same trouble with others - this is not, 'husband listening.' From what the Audiologist tells me, I am indeed having trouble hearing words, according to the, 'you will say...,' test. So is this Tom just aging? Or is this some of the activities I have pursued in the past, such as working in that industrial bakery, or attending Rock concerts
According to the Audiologist, it might be a bit of everything above. I also experience a level of Tinnitus, perhaps due to work done in a bakery where fourteen foot mixers were everywhere and my attendance at Rock concerts. You can read more about Tinnitus right here at Disabled World. The Audiologist also caught me pursuing a little amateur lip reading, something she told me not to be ashamed of in anyway - in fact, she told me to continue it. Adding all of these things up, it is hearing aid time for me.
The Audiologist then inserted a different kind of foam into my ears; foam designed to take impressions of them for the custom hearing aids I will receive at the end of April at my next appointment. The foam was a greenish color and fit the various curves and form of my ears exactly. She then placed the foam impressions in a little box so they could be sent to the VA office that will create the hearing aids.
Tips On Communicating With a Hearing Loss
After that, she went over a sheet of paper listing some various tips that can help not only me, but others where communication is involved. She told me that even the best hearing aids will find me at times misunderstanding what others have said to me, and that to minimize frustration that might happen I might try various things. One of these things is to try to minimize noise distractions such as loud televisions, radios, running water or dishwashers for example. She said that people who have hearing aids with directional microphones should position themselves so that any sound distractions are behind them.
The Audiologist told me that I should attempt to have a clear view of the face of the person I am speaking with. She told me the the best distance to talk with someone is between three and six feet, and that I should talk with others in good light when that light source is not in my eyes. She also told me that I should watch the other person's face for their facial expressions, as well as - their lip movements. She told me these things can add meaning to what the person is saying and what I hear.
One of the things that prompted Wendy to push me towards an Audiologist was my constant statements of, 'What,' and, 'Huh' The Audiologist told me that I should not say these things. Instead; she told me I should tell the person I am talking to that I misunderstood what they said, and ask them to raise their voice a bit, or talk more slowly. I might also say; for example - 'What time did you say we should meet' If I have heard a part of what the other person has said.
Another thing I might do, according to the Audiologist, is have people write down important information such as telephone numbers, addresses, dollar amounts, or measurements in order to avoid confusion. She also told me not to bluff because it does a disservice to myself. Instead, I should practice good communication skills and inform others about my hearing loss because it increases the potential of building positive relationships.
Communicating With People Who Experience a Hearing Loss
The information provided by the Veterans Administration Audiologist was something I read in further detail after I had arrived safely at home from Denver. The information included a number of tips that are valuable to Wendy and her interactions with me - or anyone who interacts with someone who has a hearing loss for that matter. Sometimes; people notice that a person has hearing aids and assume that it has completely solved the person's hearing issues. Hearing aids do help, but they might not solve all of the person's communication problems.
It is important for people communicating with a person who experiences a hearing loss to get the person's attention first, before speaking. If you say the person's name and then wait for a response, it can help greatly. It can also help to decrease the need to repeat yourself.
When you speak with a person who has a hearing loss, it is important to speak clearly. Decrease your speech to a slow-normal rate; it allows the person you are talking to the opportunity to catch up to what you are saying. Take a second and pause between sentences. Remember that the best distance for communicating effectively is from three to six feet.
While people who have a hearing impairment do have trouble hearing, it is important that you do not shout at them. Shouting can actually distort what you are trying to say in the ears of the person who is trying to hear you. Make sure the person you are trying to talk with can clearly see your face; it gives them the opportunity to see your facial expressions and your lip movements. It is alright to speak a bit louder than you usually do.
Instead of directly repeating anything you have just said to a person who has trouble hearing you, rephrase it instead. Many times, it is the same word or two in a sentence that a person has trouble hearing (believe me, I know...). A person who has trouble hearing might continue to misunderstand you because of the same one or two words, and rephrasing what you have said can remove a lot of frustration.
If you are in a loud area with noisy things like loud televisions, radio's, dishwashers, etc. - invite the person who has a hearing impairment to a quieter area. You might also attempt to turn off loud things like televisions or radios. More than anything, it is important to remain patient when communicating with a person who experiences a hearing loss. You might ask the person themselves for suggestions, they most likely have a few!
As I enter this new area of the disability experience, there is clearly a great deal to learn. I imagine that as I continue to age, the hearing impairment I have will continue to progress. New language skills such as ASL might become a part of my life, as well as a continuance of my now amateur lip reading skills. There are many people in the world who have lived with a hearing loss for lengthy periods, if not the entirety of their lives. I am gaining a new and deeper respect for the population of people who experience a hearing loss.
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