If you’re missing a few words but not ready for a hearing aid, a few simple strategies and smartphone apps may help.
Are you avoiding certain restaurants because they’re too noisy? Do you catch yourself wondering what you just heard the radio announcer say? Are you wearing out the volume control on your remote? Chances are you have a bit of hearing loss.
It’s easy to ignore a hearing loss because it can be subtle and gradual. And you may be in denial because you don’t like the idea of wearing hearing aids. Yet struggling to hear can erode your quality of life.
“Anytime you suspect you have a hearing loss, it’s always best to seek out a professional to get a legitimate diagnostic test. That way, you can determine if it’s necessary to get a medical evaluation by an ear, nose, and throat physician,” says Mark Sanders, an audiologist at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary. He adds that hearing aids aren’t the only approaches to dealing with a minor hearing loss that isn’t due to an underlying medical condition.
Sanders offers the following listening strategies to get the most out of a conversation or public event:
Come in for a close-up. Move within six to 10 feet of the other person and focus on his or her face. You may not be a lip reader, but you can pick up a lot of cues from a person’s mouth and facial expression. If you’re in a group, position yourself so that you can see everyone.
Put your best ear forward. If one ear has better hearing than the other, try to keep it toward the speaker.
Ban shouting. Ask friends and family to come into the same room to talk to you, not to shout from a distance.
Listen up. Follow the speaker closely. Once you become familiar with someone’s speaking patterns and style, you’ll be better able to pick up words and phrases that might otherwise be confusing.
Stake out your turf. If you’re going to a talk or live performance, try to find a seat about six rows from the front and in line with the speaker’s face. At the theater or movies, try to get an unobstructed view. If you can, avoid sitting next to noisy people, and try to avoid sitting under a balcony. Try out an assistive listening device if one is available.
Enlist your smartphone
The smartphone is just the latest in a long line of assistive devices that began with the ear trumpet. By downloading one of several free apps and adding a pair of earbuds or wireless headphones, you can convert your smartphone into an entry-level hearing aid. All of the apps amplify sounds picked up on your phone’s microphone. Several also have features common to a digital hearing aid—for instance, they can focus on close or distant sounds and adjust levels of background noise. Search the internet to compare features and download them from the App Store for iPhones or Google Play for Android phones.