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Explaining Your Hearing
In the first graph opposite:
– The vertical axis represents volume which is measured in decibels (dB). Sounds become louder from the top down – softest near the top of the graph.
– The horizontal axis represents frequency (pitch) which is measured in hertz (Hz). Pitch goes from low (125Hz) on the left to high (8000Hz) on the right.
– The points on the graph show the hearing levels for a typical ‘age-related’ hearing loss, where high-pitched sounds have to be louder in order to be heard.
The second graph shows where we hear normal speech (the shaded area) and indicates where specific speech sounds are heard (volume and frequency). Normal conversational speech is about 45 dB. Most people with hearing loss have difficulty hearing the high-pitched consonants in words, e.g. ‘s’, ‘t’, ‘th’. People who experience hearing loss often describe being able to hear speech, but not being able to work out what is being said.
For example, try to work out the title of this well-known nursery rhyme:
_A_ _ _A_ A _I_ _ _E _A_ _
and now see how much easier it is if you can hear the consonants:
M_RY H_D _ L_TTL_ L_MB
How to Make the Most of Your Hearing
• Take Control
Sometimes it seems as if our hearing problem takes control of the situation, especially in background noise. Don’t be afraid to explain you are struggling to hear. If we’re up-front about it people are generally more patient and willing to help.
• Help People to Help You
You might need to explain to people how to help you. Ask them to rephrase or repeat, talk clearly and not too fast. Learn to make light of things, so if you hear them say something that makes no sense at all and it strikes you as funny, share the joke. It will relax you both.
• Look for visual clues
Make sure the room is well lit. Have your back to the light source (e.g. window) so that the face of the person you are listening to is not in shadow. Stand 1 – 2 metres (3 – 6 ft) away from the other person as lip-reading is difficult if the speaker is too near or too far away.
• Have your eyesight checked regularly.
Some people find it helpful to learn to lipread. You might like to consider joining a class (see ‘Useful contact numbers’ below) or practice free online: https://www.lipreadingpractice.co.uk/
• Make your everyday environment suit you
It may be time to move furniture around so that you sit closer to the TV or another person in your home. Reducing the distance reduces the strain of trying to hear. Think about changing your phone or having an extension bell fitted if you find it difficult to hear high pitch sounds. Your home/work environment is generally where you spend most of your time. Do all you can to make it hearing friendly.
Don’t let yourself get too tired or tense, you will be able to understand better if you are relaxed.
Best Listening Conditions
• A room with soft furnishings such as carpets, curtains and cushions will help to absorb sound reflections and so reduce the ‘echo’ effect.
• Try to reduce background noises (for example a tablecloth may lessen the noise of plates clattering).
• Ask people to face you, to speak clearly and a little more slowly. Mumbling or shouting may make it more difficult for you to understand the words of the speaker.
Talking to a hearing impaired person
• Be Patient
It can be as difficult to be understood as it is to understand. Look for signs that suggest the other person is not grasping the conversation, and don’t be afraid to ask them whether they are. This shows concern and willingness to help.
• Get their Attention First
If they don’t know you are speaking to them the first part of what you say will be completely missed.
• Let Your Face Be Seen
Seeing your face will help them to understand what you are saying. Do not stand with your back to the light because your face will be in shadow. Where possible face the light and stand 1 – 2 metres (3 – 6 ft) away from the listener.
• Speak Clearly
Keep your head still while speaking. Use natural gestures and do not exaggerate them as this may distract the listener’s attention. Don’t shout but speak clearly and not too fast.
• Make the Subject of Conversation Clear
If the listener has a starting point it is much easier to understand the conversation. Full sentences are easier to understand than short phrases. Repeat a sentence if necessary, but you might then need to rephrase it because some words are more difficult to lip-read than others
• Keep Background Noise to a Minimum
Someone with hearing problems will find it more difficult to understand you if there is competing noise (e.g. TV, traffic noise, clatter of dishes etc.) Try to reduce it if possible, or move to a quieter place.
• Write down Key Facts
This will help the listener to be sure they have the correct information – particularly if you are making arrangements e.g. meeting time and place.
Useful Contact Numbers:
Action on Hearing Loss
1-3 Highbury Station Road, London, N1 1SE
Freephone information line: Tel 0808 808 0123 (voice)
Textphone 0808 808 9000 SMS text message 07800 000 360
Email: [email protected]
Main Outpatients, Yellow Zone, Milton Keynes University Hospital
Tel 01908 995199 or 995156
Text 01908 995199/995156 (we cannot text you back)
E mail: [email protected]
Monday – Friday 9.00am – 4.30pm
Community Learning MK (lip-reading courses may be available)
Tel: 01908 556700
Email: [email protected]
Sensory Advice Resource Centre Milton Keynes (Assistive Listening Devices / Community Support)
Gloucester House, 399 Silbury Boulevard, Milton Keynes, MK9 2AH
Tel: 01908 401135, SMS: 07803 452617, Fax: 01908 557609
Email: [email protected] Website: www.sarc-bid.org.uk