About one in three people between 65 and 74 experiences hearing loss and that number jumps to half of everyone over 75. And while we can argue until the cows come home why Medicare doesn’t think this is enough of a problem to cover hearing aids, we have some hacks that at least will help you hear better:
1. Face the person who is speaking.
Yes, there is a little lip reader in all of us. Getting visual cues will help your brain fill in the blanks. The UCSF Medical Center says that facing your partner will go a long way to improving how much of the conversation you are able to hear. Make sure that you are on the same level and positioned so the light is on the speaker’s face. Having a visual to accompany the audio is a great key to understanding more of any conversation.
2. Don’t start conversations from the other room.
By now you probably know you won’t be able to hear the response, so why bother? Give yourself a fighting chance and walk into the room where the other conversant is. Not being able to see each other will only increase your difficulty in hearing. And while you’re at it, ask your loved ones to use your name before they address you. That way, you’ll know they are talking to you instead of the dog.
3. Speaking of the dog …
Don’t give your pets names that sound like other family members’ or you will forever be hearing them wrong. “Timmy” and “Jimmy” is just asking for trouble. Ditto for “Rusty” and “Dusty” and “Molly” and “Dolly.” Even names that have similar ending sounds can be problematic.
4. Use your right ear to hear speech and your left ear to hear music.
Yes, it matters! Science has found that the right ear is dominant for listening to verbal stimuli (which reflects the brain’s left hemisphere superiority for processing verbal information). This preference for hearing with the right ear is also found in rats, Japanese macaques, harpy eagles, sea lions and dogs, notes Live Science. So face your right ear closest to the speaker.
Music is a different matter. For maximum music enjoyment, face your left ear to the orchestra.
5. Sit with your back to the wall in restaurants and public places.
The wall behind you prevents ambient noise from seeping in from behind you and helps you focus on the speaker in front of you. It may not make enough of a difference in super-noisy restaurants, but the science here says that conversational sound waves will bounce off the wall instead of dissipating.
6. Preemptively explain the situation to strangers.
“I am hard of hearing, so can you speak louder?” Trust us, they will learn about your “secret” within five minutes of trying to have a conversation with you anyway. Getting it out there generally results in their not only speaking louder, but also simplifying their sentences and agreeing to move to a quieter corner of the party to be able to talk to you.
7. Get rid of your earwax!
Bottom Line Health says that about one in 20 adults suffer hearing loss because of wax in their ears. The site says earwax can cause a hearing loss of up to 40 decibels if your ear canal is blocked.
8. Consider asking your loved ones …
Let’s start with accepting the fact that you have trouble hearing and an acknowledgement that this causes frustration and stress for everyone else in your life. So to reduce that, ask your loved ones to try not to speak too rapidly or use complex sentences. It also helps if they don’t cover their mouths with their hands when they speak to you, or talk with a mouthful of food — which they shouldn’t do anyway. Men who sport beards or mustaches are often harder to hear because their facial hair interferes with the ability to “read” their words.
Patience. You can also ask for their patience. Your hearing loss impacts their lives almost as dramatically as it does yours.
9. Speakerphones and headphones are there to help.
Answering phone calls with a speakerphone or headphones can go a long way to improving how well you hear the person on the other end. Headphones are great because they pump the sound directly into your ear, while blocking out other noise around you.
10. There’s an app for that.
There are phone apps that will increase the volume on your phone, making it easier for you to hear. Interestingly, there appears to be more for Android devices than Apple-based products. Guess which company is targeting the older audience? But the bottom line is: Seek and you can find something to crank up the volume on whatever device you want — and at the very least you can use closed captioning for watching TV or streaming movies.