Since the advent of the digital age, new hearing instruments have been introduced every year that are better able to cope with extraneous noises in difficult listening situations. However, there still may be times when understanding speech is challenging. The good news is, in most instances, you can modify your environment or position to improve your listening performance. Here are some tips:
When conversing at a noisy gathering, isolate background noise by moving away from the center to the edge of the room. Position yourself so the throng of people is behind you. This will assist your hearing aids’ noise reduction circuitry and directional microphones in locating the voice of the speaker in front of you.
Hearing in restaurants can be a unique challenge. Always request a booth or a table away from the kitchen and main traffic areas. If the restaurant has piped-in music, choose a table away from a ceiling speaker. Opt for an indoor table rather than patio seating, as it is difficult for hearing aids to isolate speech in the presence of traffic noise.
If you have difficulty hearing in a house of worship, it is likely due to the poor acoustics of the facility. Try sitting near a speaker at the front of the room to cut down on interfering echoes. You should be aware that all meeting facilities are required by federal law (Americans With Disabilities Act) to provide an assistive listening system for hearing-impaired members of the congregation. If yours doesn’t have one, you should ask that one be provided.
Most instruments sold within the past year can be coupled with an additional system that will stream the sound of the speaker directly into your hearing aids. This product consists of a wireless microphone worn by the person you want to hear and a small receiver (about the size of a cell phone) worn around your neck. With the microphone placed closer to the speaker’s lips, the loudness and clarity of the voice is enhanced. Our patients find this device most effective in large, loud gatherings, or when trying to communicate in a vehicle, such as a van or bus.
All of us “lip read” to fill in the gaps in conversation when background noise is present. Hearing-impaired people rely on this skill even more than folks with normal hearing do, and they have honed their ability to a fine edge. Always make sure that you can see the face of the person who is speaking to you. Adequate lighting on that person’s face will provide maximum information from lip reading.
Finally and most importantly, don’t be afraid to inform others that you have a hearing problem. Let them know that they should face you, speak a bit slower and rephrase what they say if you misunderstand them. For example, if you don’t understand, “I need to go to the store,” the speaker can rephrase it to, “I need to go the market.” A simple substitution of a key word will often make all the difference.
If you haven’t used these techniques, I think you’ll have fun experimenting with them and find them beneficial. Try them out and feel free to give me your feeback.