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Breaking Down Communication Barriers - Bring on the Tech!

Breaking Down Communication Barriers - Bring on the Tech!

There are many warning signs that point to the fact you are experiencing hearing loss. Here are a few: 

  • Difficulty understanding what others are saying, even when they are speaking clearly and slowly.
  • Turning up the volume on the TV or radio more than usual.
  • Trouble following conversations in noisy environments.
  • Ringing, buzzing, or hissing in your ears (tinnitus).
  • Others have told you that they have to repeat themselves often when speaking with you.
  • You feel like you are not getting enough out of life because you cannot hear well enough to enjoy social activities, work, or other important aspects of your life. (taken from audiologyinnovations.ca)

As we age, it is normal to experience some hearing loss and it is important to see an audiologist to monitor it.  As we honour Seniors’ Week in Alberta, I think it is important to celebrate how technology makes it possible for seniors with hearing loss to enjoy rich and rewarding lives – engaging in social activities and enjoying family time together.

If you have a senior family member who is becoming isolated because they are struggling with hearing challenges, please seek help as soon as possible. Research proves that physical and mental health are negatively impacted by untreated hearing loss.

There is, however, a continued stigma associated with wearing hearing aids, using assistive devices, and admitting that you are missing parts of conversations because you can’t hear. While we cannot change peoples’ conscious or unconscious biases, we can make assistive communication technology an accepted and routine “norm” in our world.

What would it look like if…?

I read some comments on a website that was discussing ear in-canal hearing aids versus behind-the-ear ones. Countless commenters pointed out that they wanted the in-canal hearing aids so that no one would know they were hard of hearing.  In the same breath, they discussed incidents where they were shoved or pushed out of the way by people who were apparently offended when they did not hear them from behind.  One hard of hearing person was shamed for not moving out of the way of a person in a wheelchair behind them.

What if people who are hard of hearing embraced it? Hearing loss is not just something experienced by seniors!  Old and young, born with or a change later in life, being hard of hearing is part of the human experience, whether it is ours or someone else’s. We do not shame the people we encounter who have a visible disability and invisible disabilities should be treated no differently.

My vision is one of an Alberta where hearing loops are standard in public buildings. Captioning is provided as a standard for films, and TV. Meetings would automatically have live captioning or Artificial Intelligence for online meetings through platforms like Zoom, Skype, and MS Teams. Voice to text apps would be commonplace and often used in the workplace or socially. It would not be out of the ordinary to see people walking around with personal amplifiers – wearable devices with microphones that deliver sound at a greater volume. Isn’t this what accepting differences and being inclusive is all about?

Personal amplifiers to explore…

Here are some examples of personal amplifiers that can change your entire hearing scenario.  Some can be used in conjunction with hearing aids or cochlear implants.  Others can be used alone.

Pocketalker Ultra  

  • A compact device that amplifies close-by sounds while reducing background noise
  • 200 hours of battery life
  • Includes a plug-in very sensitive microphone and for the TV listener, a 12-foot-long TV listening extension cord for the mic
  • Adjustable tone & volume controls
  • Use with or without hearing aids
  • A headset, earbud, and the first set of batteries is included

 Pocketalker 2.0

  • An updated Pocketalker model with different features:
    • a new ergonomic design to the exterior case
    • an internal microphone
    • t-coil switch that enables non-hearing aid wearers to access hearing looped environments, where sound travels directly to the headset

The Phonak Roger System

  • works to eliminate background noise
  • focuses in on a speaker
  • boosts the speech level straight to the hearing aid wearer

The Roger wireless microphone and receiver work with almost any hearing aid or cochlear implant brand so you can hear regardless of where the voice is coming from. For many people, loud environments, speakers at a distance, and background noise cause speech to sound distorted, disrupted, or lost altogether. Understanding group conversation in background noise is up to 61% better than with hearing aids alone. 

Amplified Telephones

Panasonic KX-TGM490S Amplified Cordless Telephone with Digital Answering Machine

  • Speech is louder with 50dB amplification
  • Tone control and background noise reduction to adjust for each caller’s voice and clarity
  • Fast talkers are better understood with the slow talk control
  • Loud/visual ringer

Geemarc Amplipower60 Extra Loud Amplified Telephone

  • One of the loudest phones available
  • Boost override switch allows access to maximum amplification with every call if needed
  • Tone control to adjust callers’ voice frequency, increasing or decreasing the bass and treble depending on your hearing loss

Here’s to a movin’ and groovin’ Seniors’ Week!

Address your hearing loss and see your life improve! See an audiologist.

Book an appointment for a FREE demonstration of DHA’s assistive devices!

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