If I walk down the street without hearing aids, as I do when I sometimes forget to put them in, I hear little. Even with them in I don’t get to hear much and when I do it’s often an unhelpful din without any distinguishing sound that I can make sense of.
When I am out, with my hearing aids, and I don’t catch what someone has said, all too often they raise their voice and that just makes it worse; I pick up even less. No one ever lowers their voice and speaks slower. That might help. It’s not their fault, because they probably don’t even ‘see’ that I am deaf. No one does, but it means that the world can be a very lonely place and means that I don’t always go out.
Just as well at the moment, being indoors 24/7, only going out for a weekly shop for essentials and a daily dose of exercise. But Social-Distancing only increases a feeling of isolation causing “Coronavirus Loneliness”
Most people are staying in contact with others, friends and family by telephone, but when you are deaf or hard of hearing using a phone is frustrating. It leaves me feeling anxious about phoning anyone and tired afterwards because of needing to concentrate so hard to make sense of what the other person is saying. More often than not I get it wrong anyway. For me the anxiety is so acute that phone-use is something to be avoided at all costs.
I have a smartphone and often rely on video calling, still a stressful experience, texts and only ringing a few people with whom I am familiar with their voice. It means that I can also be very lonely at home. I know that I have not been getting the most out of the smartphone or the technology that backs it up.
Hearing loss is in many respects invisible to those that don’t suffer with it, and that can make the individual invisible and withdrawn too. If people know, then they can make an effort and that is always appreciated and often makes a real difference. For example, prefixing a question directed towards me with my name, facing me, providing a context to the conversation and not changing the ‘subject’ too quickly. Not easy I know, but that’s what it is like for those with hearing loss.
Whilst there are many common issues facing people with hearing loss, your audiogram (the graphical illustration of your hearing) is as unique as your fingerprint, and this eliminates the option of a “silver-bullet” cure at all.
Also an individual’s hearing will vary depending on how they are feeling, how tired they are, where they are, how noisy is it and the pitch of the noise.
HearClear, the app I’ve begun using, recognises that everyone’s hearing experience is unique. In addition to the audio from the video-call you can ‘hear’ by seeing the words, lip reading and even interpreting the tone and gestures made. The app combines video-calling with speech recognition technology.
HearClear allows people to create their own hearing experience and maintains the privacy of the call. There’s no one solution which you could consider perfect, but HearClear is currently the best I’ve found, and they’re still making adjustments and adding new features. It gives me the auditory and visual prompts, and means that using HearClear myself, and any person with hearing loss can ‘fill in the spaces’ and ‘they can hear what is said’ enabling them to better engage with the world and the world with them, particularly their family and friends…
…after all none of us really want to lose contact in these difficult times.