Hearing loss: What you and your family can do

Hearing loss: What you and your family can do

Hearing loss: What you and your family can do

Hearing loss: What you and your family can do

Connection to and communication with other people is vital for our mental, physical, and emotional well-being. Failure to communicate effectively can create relationship stress we just don’t need or want in our lives. So it’s important to make clear communication a priority, especially at home.

Add hearing loss to the equation and this stress is magnified.

Most hearing impaired people will struggle to understand speech in challenging listening conditions like at cafes or restaurants.

If you or a family member has hearing loss, everyone feels the impact. The person with hearing loss may experience the feeling of being ignored, a sense of separation from family relationships, and isolation from daily family life. For family members of a person with hearing loss there is the frustration of having to repeat themselves, feelings of not being understood, and in some cases, having to deal with a loved one who they suspect suffers from hearing loss but who refuses to acknowledge the problem, or seek treatment.

So what can you do?

Firstly, see a hearing care professional for treatment, or encourage your loved one to do so. They are the only ones qualified to make an accurate assessment and suggest appropriate treatment options. Don’t delay getting a hearing test; every day is a new opportunity to communicate effectively with your loved ones.

Secondly, lay some ground rules for communication.

12 simple rules for better family communication

We can sometimes be lazy with our communication, and this is especially true within families. We’re often more casual with our close loved ones than we are at work or in social settings, which can cause unintentional issues. For example, even people with perfect hearing will have trouble understanding you when they’re in another room, you have your face turned away, or there is loud background noise. For those with hearing impairment, even whenusing hearing aids or other assistive devices, most people will struggle to understand speech in challenging listening conditions.

But there are things you and your family can do to improve your family communication and make living with hearing loss a lot easier. Here are some simple rules to follow.

man who can't hear in cafes

Ask your friends and family to face you when they talk; it may help you to understand them better.

If you have hearing loss:

  1. 1. Tell your friends and family about your hearing loss. The more people you tell, the more people there will be to help you cope.
  1. 2. Ask your friends and family to face you when they talk so that you can see their faces. If you watch their faces move and see their expressions, it may help you to understand them better.
  1. 3. Be aware of noise around you that can make hearing more difficult. For example, when you go to a restaurant don’t sit near the kitchen or near a band playing music.
  1. 4. Seek professional help. Most hearing care practitioners are experts at helping family members learn new communication strategies. And advice coming from a neutral third-party is often easier to accept than when it comes directly from a loved one.
  1. 5. Wear your hearing aids consistently. It shows you’re doing your part to enable effective communication.
Hearing issues affect families

Be calm, patient and work together to communicate effectively. Hearing better and improving your family connections is well worth the effort.

If a family member has hearing loss:

  1. 6. When you want to talk to a family member with hearing loss, gently touch them to get their attention before speaking. Alternately, say their name and wait for them to look at you. This gives them the chance to concentrate on listening and if necessary, reduce background noise by muting the TV or turning off the radio.
  1. 7. Speak louder, but don’t shout. And more important, speak clearly, enunciating each syllable. This will help the person with hearing loss understand what you’re saying more than shouting would.
  1. 8. Add pauses to your speech. It’s a myth that slowing speech down dramatically and dragging out each word will help a person with hearing loss understand you better. It’s much more effective to slow speech down a bit by putting a slightly longer pause between each word.
  1. 9. Avoid one-word answers. For a person with hearing loss, a one-word ‘yes’ answer can sound strikingly similar to a one-word ‘no’ answer. This is especially true in situations where there is background noise, or when the listener can’t see the speaker’s face.
  1. 10. Get closer. In challenging hearing situations, like restaurants, parties or places with lots of background noise, position yourself so you are face-to-face. Resist the temptation to call out from another room; walk into the room and then talk at a normal level.
  1. 11. Rephrase, don’t repeat. If someone indicates they don’t understand what you’ve said, avoid saying the exact same thing again. Instead, rephrase the sentence so they have an opportunity to glean meaning from your different word choices.
  1. 12. The most important communication rule is to be forgiving when someone makes a mistake, or forgets any of the above rules. No one is perfect or intentionally trying to be rude.

Working together to improve communicate may be difficult for a while. It will take time for you to get used to watching people as they talk, and for people to get used to speaking louder and more clearly. Be calm, patient and continue to work together. Hearing better and improving your family connections is well worth the effort.

Are your child’s toys causing them hearing loss or damage?

Are your child’s toys causing them hearing loss or damage?

Are your child’s toys causing them hearing loss or damage?

In today’s world of constant over-stimulation, children’s toys have evolved from rocking horses and pull toys, to advanced technological gadgets equipped with all kinds of bells and whistles designed to spark your child’s imagination, educate and delight them, and keep them entranced for hours. The problem is that many of these fancy new toys could be causing your child hearing damage, and in extreme cases, even hearing loss.

Hearing loss is cumulative, developing gradually as we age, and noise-induced hearing loss is permanent and not currently curable.

So it’s critical that we start protecting children’s hearing from an early age.

noisy toys and hearing loss

Are your child’s toys causing them hearing loss or damage? Image via livescience.com

How loud is too loud?

Unprotected exposure to sounds above 85 decibels (dB) for a prolonged period can lead to hearing impairment. And the louder a sound is, the less time it takes to cause damage.

So how loud does a toy have to be before it is considered dangerous for your child? To put it in perspective, the average conversation is about 65 dB loud, but some toys emit sounds that are more than 100 dB. For example, when used in ordinary play some types of battery-driven toy guns and action figurines can create noise levels between 100 and 140 dB, equivalent to the noise generated by a motorbike, a rock concert, or a jet at take-off.

noisy toys and hearing loss

Protect your child’s hearing: Some toys are emitting noises as loud as chainsaws.

And that’s assuming that your child is using the toy the way the designers intended for it to be played with. Toys are generally noise-tested at a distance of a child’s arm length; approximately 25cm. But if you watch a child playing with a hand held noise-emitting toy you will see them hold it close to their face, right next to their ears, which increases exposure to more than 120 dB of sound. As children are very sensitive to loud and high-pitched sounds, toys this loud can cause physical pain to some kids.

Which toys are too loud?

Each year the American Sight & Hearing Association (SHA) prepares a Noisy Toys List in time for Christmas, to help parents and caregivers make informed decisions about gift choices. Their most recent list, published on 24th November 2016, found 3 toys that were so loud they could cause hearing damage within 15 minutes of play time. The worst offender was the WWE 3-Count Crushers, Roman Reigns™ action figure by Mattel®, which was found to produce groans and growls that reach 104.4 dB. Other recent list-toppers include Road Rippers Lightning Rods, Let’s Rock Elmo and the I Am T-Pain musical microphone.

Check out the SHA Noisy Toys List top 20 here.

How can I protect my child’s hearing from noisy toys?

There are several free smartphone apps available that allow you to take a rough measurement of decibel levels. The apps are limited by the phone’s ability to pick up the sound, and they usually cap out at 100 dB. So if the app can’t pick up the audio from the toy, that toy is too loud for your child! Decibel 10th is a highly-rated decibel meter available on iTunes and Google Play.

Decibel 10th smartphone app noise meter

Decibel 10th is a handy smartphone app for measuring noise levels.

If you don’t own a smartphone, your ears will do the job just as well. Rule of thumb: if a toy sounds too loud to you, it is too loud for your child.

Other tips when choosing toys

  • Test toys for noise levels before you buy them. Push buttons, rattle components, and bring the toy up to your ear as your child would.
  • Avoid buying toys that display warnings about holding them too close to the ears (children will forget about this during play time).
  • Choose less noisy toys wherever possible, or find ways to reduce their noisiness (i.e., putting tape or glue over the speaker to muffle the sound).
  • Look for toys that have volume controls.
  • Pay attention to where the toy’s speaker is located (underneath it better than on top).
  • Designate noisy toys like musical instruments and toy guns as ‘outdoor use only’ and restrict their use.
  • Use play mats or rugs to reduce noise from toys that don’t emit sound but can still be noisy to play with (blocks for example).