You’d better take a deep breath and call from the top of your lungs if you want him to hear you from the living room.
Forget about talking to him on the phone—he won’t even answer it. He calls you a “mumbler.” The television volume is on max, always.
He just won’t admit he can’t hear and he won’t get tested. Sound familiar? Well, he’s my dad. Is he yours too?
He’s driving my mom crazy. “Instead of saying, ‘I didn’t hear you,’ he says, ‘you never told me,’” explains my mother. Miscommunication causes conflict, which is never good for a marriage.
Social activities have become more difficult for my parents. “It’s very annoying in the middle of plays, movies, or speeches, to have someone say, ‘What did he say?’ Now you have to stop listening to the rest of it to answer,” complains my mother.
When mom attempts to answer, dad will often respond “No, no. Not that. The other thing they said!” Other people in the audience fail to find this banter amusing.
My father’s hearing loss is becoming a source of resentment, especially because he’s refusing to acknowledge it. Now mom feels she’s stuck with his problem.
Loss in Communication
The loss in communication is typical, says Jerry Bennett, Doctor of Audiology and Clinical Practice Director for Sears Hearing Centre.
Hearing loss deteriorates slowly over time. Often the person with the hearing loss isn’t aware of the depth of the problem.
“People with hearing loss live in a world in which others expect them to hear normally. They may find themselves ridiculed, ignored or the target of anger and frustration,” explains Bennett.
“If left untreated, hearing loss is proven to negatively impact interpersonal and family relationships.”
And so, in support of my mother (and maybe your mother too), I sought to find out all about hearing aids and hearing tests, or die trying.
It turns out my timing couldn’t be better. May is Speech and Hearing Awareness Month.
According to the Canadian Association of Speech and Language Pathologists and Audiologists (CASLPA) 10 percent of the general population, 20 percent of those over 65, and 40 percent of those over 75 have a significant hearing problem.
It seems my parents are certainly not alone.
Testing, Testing 1, 2, 3
I decided to get my hearing tested. I called for an appointment. Most places that dispense hearing aids offer free testing. The tests are similar no matter where you go.
The first test involved plugging my ears and changing the air pressure in the canal followed by some rather loud tones played at a couple of frequencies.
According to Tracy Saunders, an audiologist and the audiology trainer at Hearing Solutions, this tests for any mechanical impairment of the middle ear.
Changing the air pressure tests the health of the eardrum. The loud sounds test the acoustic reflex, in short, the strength of the stapedius muscle that controls the movement of the stapes in response to loud noise.
The stapes and the stapedius are the smallest bone and muscle in the human body. They indirectly connect to the eardrum to transmit sound.
If the test findings are outside normal range, you will be referred to an ear, nose, and throat specialist before being fitted with a hearing device. “We would always want to get medical clearance first,” Saunders explains.
What happens if there’s a blockage? It may be good news. Taking the wax out of your ear is much cheaper than a hearing aid. It saved my grandmother several thousand dollars! Lucky for her, wax was her only problem.
Next, I was placed in a booth with glass windows. Each ear is individually tested at a variety of volumes and frequencies. When you hear a sound, you press a button. Simple.
Next comes the word recognition test. It tests how clearly you hear. Though generally in English, you can call around to different hearing clinics for an audiologist or hearing instrument specialist who speaks your language.
My test was completed in under an hour. Apparently my hearing was “excellent.”
Effective Communication Saves Time
It’s time to address father’s many concerns about hearing aids, which my mother wrongly calls excuses.My dad has always been a chronic over-achiever, which is why he’s fun to be around. Instead of retiring, he’s busy running an art college. He says he simply has no time for a hearing test.
Unfortunately, people with hearing loss may end up creating extra work for themselves because of ineffective communication, resulting in lost time.
“If you invest time in your hearing, you save time because you become a more effective communicator,” says Bennett, “Plus it’s exhausting straining to hear all day.”
This is Part 1 of a two-part series. Part 2 can be read here.