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August 2022 – A Sensitivity in Communication


August 2022

A Sensitivity in Communication

Communication is the most important way we deal with other individuals. All species of life especially humans and animals, communicate using a combination of verbal and/or non-verbal skills.  In the best of circumstances there may be misunderstandings based upon the way a person interprets what and how something is communicated to them. 

When interacting with people who have physical challenges the experience can become more complicated.  Regardless of whether or not someone has all their senses, much of what is expressed here applies to everyone.  Here are some examples that are specific to the visual and hearing challenged communities.

Let’s pretend we are giving directions to a visually challenged person.  It is important to be specific about what you are saying.  You will be giving them recognizable landmarks and measurable distances.  We have all heard the direction “go that way”.  Well, which way is that way?  The visually challenged person can’t see which way you are pointing.  Even something as simple as giving directions takes patience and understanding of a person’s requirements.  A solution here is to identify the direction using a clock system, for example, it’s at 3 o’clock from where they are facing, and it’s a 10 minute walk.  Being specific will alleviate the stress and uncomfortable feelings for both parties. 

A person who is hard of hearing (HOH) presents a different set of challenges.  This individual relies on hearing devices to identify sounds and words.  The general misconception amongst hearing enabled persons is that someone who is hard of hearing and asks for a clarification cannot hear at all.  The truth of the matter is that a person may recognize sounds but not actual words. The environment may have been noisy.  When there is excess background noise and one wears a hearing aid, the noise overpowers the sounds of the person speaking.  The speaker may have been mumbling or covering their face with hands blocking the passage of sounds.  This is really a simple case of not being able to understand what a person is saying rather than not being able to hear.

Proper communication practices mean clear enunciation, steady pace, and simple words.  Many words have the same sounds when spoken; any person can mistake one word for another that sounds alike.

Here are features of verbal and non verbal communication to be aware of:

 

        Verbal                                                   Non Verbal (Body Language)

        Tone of Voice                                                      Facial Expressions

        Speed of Speech                                                 Showing Annoyance

        Clearness of Speech                                            Hand Movement

        Pronunciation of Words                                     Lip Movement

        Volume of Sounds                                              Head Shaking

        Too loud/ Too Low                                             Staring Eyes

        Mumbling                                                           Diverting Eye

 

 

 



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April 2022. – A note to our Help America Hear Famiily

A note to our Help America Hear Family members,

I come to you awe-inspired this evening, in the most humble fashion with a story of reflection about my son and how he makes me a better, more confident and stronger person.  

Over the last month my son said he’s going to try out for the Berner Middle School baseball team.  He said from day one that he doesn’t think he can make it, but he’s “gonna go for it because what do I have to lose.”  He told me that he didn’t think he had a chance, there’s kids much better than him that play travel ball but he’s going to just do his best and if he doesn’t make it, well that’s okay… at least he tried.  Danielle and I both discussed it, not sure whether he should try out but inevitably we absolutely support him.  He truly loves the game, the play, the stats, the history, the sound of the ballpark.  He’s been in tryouts all week and asked to go to the park and practice every other day.  He’s never been one of the best on the team but he definitely gives his all, in practice, on the bench and during every game.  He did this with boys volleyball too, and didn’t make the team but did his undoubtedly best in multiple days of tryouts, but didn’t make the cut and yet remained positive and moved on to new things.  Rejection and fear thereof makes so many of us shy away from “going for it” and unfortunately we can’t succeed in what we don’t attempt.

As a note of inspiring success, John swam the 50 meter freestyle last weekend for his St. Rose swim team, he was in lane 2 close to the starter, was in fourth going into the turn and somehow finished strong to win his first race of the season.  The kicker was, he can’t wear hearing aids near the pool so they stay in the locker room the whole meet.  As he finished and came into the wall, he humbly got out of the pool and walked around to the bleachers and sat with his team, doing his best to communicate with his teammates and say good job to the two other boys in the race.  When we finally regrouped after the race was over and walked out to the car I asked John did he “know what happened in the freestyle race?”  He said “what do you mean Dad?”  I said “Johnny… you came back from 4th to first in like half a lap… you won.”  He didn’t believe me until I showed him the video.  Lack of hearing while swimming pains us as parents on the sidelines, but it also reminds us constantly of what it must be like for so many of those in need of hearing aids.

So tonight, whether John makes the team or not, the takeaway I have is that he’s okay with rejection and knows enough about what’s important in life to keep on being himself. President of the 7th Grade, little inspiring mascot/figurehead of this amazing organization HELP AMERICA HEAR, big brother, hero to his parents, and a success story of persistence at such a young age, whether he knows it now or not.

That brings me to where we’re at as an organization with Help America Hear.  We have a team that’s grown, we have an amazing group of founders and supporters as well as a newly formed committee with fresh ideas and passion.  There’s upwards of 150 people just like John whose live’s get changed annually by our organization.  Over 1,500 Americans have gotten the gift of hearing from us, our family.  As we get set for our evening at Top Golf next Tuesday I hope we all can draw a little strength from what my son John brings to the organization.  He could’ve given up so many times, but he sees you all showing up to help people in need and knows he’s a part of it.  John’s life is enriched because he’s gotten to know you Mitch, you David Carr, you David Gustin, you Michael LoFrumento, you John Michael, and all of you, who are helping people like him that need to hear the world around them, because without hearing… life fades away into silence and the feeling of being alone.

Thanks to our honoree, Michael LoFrumento, for introducing my family to this family at Help America Hear.  Thank you to each of you for bringing value to our team, you’re all special and part of our family now.  Let’s do like John does and look fear and rejection in the face and try it anyway because… “what do I have to lose.”  Let’s ask for support from potential sponsors because we deserve it, we know where the money goes, we know who the money helps and we know damn well that we make a difference in people’s lives. 

Let’s give these next few weeks a solid push at bringing sponsors into our family to support the John Thomas Golf Classic for Help America Hear.  I appreciate you all and thank you for always doing your best.

Best regards,

Gregg T.

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March 2022. – Is Hearing Loss Common? What Types of Hearing Loss Are There?

Is Hearing Loss Common? What Types of Hearing Loss Are There?

Hearing loss is more common than you may think. And there are different types of hearing loss that impact people in different ways. Before reviewing the different types of hearing loss, let’s quickly look at how common hearing loss really is. 

How Common is Hearing Loss?

In 2021, the World Health Organization (WHO) released a report indicating that in less than 30 years, nearly 2.5 billion people globally will face hearing loss. The report further noted that at least 700 million will likely require ear and hearing care, as well as other auditory rehabilitation services. In America alone, the statistics around hearing loss are astounding as well. 

Quick Facts About Hearing in the United States
The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (a section of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) reviewed various studies, publications and articles to compile 15 facts about hearing
[SB1] , and below are a few worth noting from the March 2021 update.

·       Approximately 37.5 million American adults aged 18 and over report some trouble hearing 

·       Men are almost twice as likely as women to have hearing loss among adults aged 20-69

·       Speech-frequency hearing loss in both ears is common in about 18 percent of adults aged 20-69, who report 5 or more years of exposure to very loud noise at work. This is nearly 13 percent more than the 5.5 percent of adults with speech-frequency hearing loss in both ears who report no occupational noise exposure.

·       About 28.8 million American adults could benefit from using hearing aid technology

·       Roughly 25 million Americans has experienced tinnitus lasting at least five minutes in the past year

 

The Different Types of Hearing Loss

The type of hearing loss someone can have depends on what part of your hearing system is damaged. While traditionally three basic types of hearing loss exist – conductive, sensorineural and mixed – some audiologists today also add in central hearing loss and functional hearing loss. For the same of this blog, let’s review all five. 

 

Conductive Hearing Loss

When sound can’t get through your outer ear or middle ear, soft sounds may be hard to hear, and louder sounds will feel muffled. Conductive hearing loss is often caused by a physical or organic issue (see potential causes below) and can often be fixed with help from an audiologist, medicine or surgery.

 

Some of the causes of conductive hearing loss include: 

·       Earwax build-up, or cerumen, stuck in the ear canal

·       A hole in your eardrum

·       Fluid in the middle ear (usually happens when you have a cold or if you suffer from allergies)

·       Eustachian tube function issues

·       Ear infection

 

(See more causes of conductive hearing loss here.)[SB2] 

 

Sensorineural Hearing Loss

Sensorineural hearing loss results after damage to the inner ear (cochlea) or hearing nerve is damaged or doesn’t work as it should. People with sensorineural hearing loss often report that sounds are muffled, unclear and hard to hear overall. 

 

Sensorineural hearing loss can be caused by any of the following things:

·       Genetics (hereditary hearing loss)

·       Aging

·       Physical trauma to the head or ears

·       Problem in the way the inner ear is formed from birth

·       Illness

·       Drugs that are toxic to hearing (ototoxic medications[SB3] )

·       Exposure to loud noise or listening to loud sounds (i.e., explosions, construction equipment, gunshots, music)

 

This type of hearing loss is permanent, and unfortunately, surgery and medicine are not always possible fixes. Hearing aids have been shown to help. 

 

Mixed Hearing Loss

Mixed hearing loss stems from a problem in your outer or middle ear as well as in your inner ear or nerve pathway to the brain. A mixed hearing loss is a combination of conductive hearing loss and sensorineural hearing loss, and the causes of mixed hearing loss are the same as for conductive or sensorineural. Mixed hearing loss

 

Central Hearing Loss

Less commonly known, central hearing loss is when an issue in the central nervous system (CNS) prevents auditory signals sent by the ear from being processed by the brain. In this case, your ears function normally and can “hear” just fine. But despite functional ears, the brain cannot decipher or decode the sound signals into identifiable things or words. Think of it as a gap between the bridge between your ears and brain – the sounds can’t get through unscathed. So, when you’re taking in competing sounds, like street traffic and voices, it can be extremely difficult to decipher what is what. 

 

Functional Hearing Loss

Functional hearing loss is unique in that it’s not consistent and has no true physiological explanation. Any hearing loss that can’t be explained by an organic cause is classified as functional hearing loss. In some cases, functional hearing loss may be a result of an emotional or psychological condition. For example, functional hearing loss may be a temporary consequence of severe trauma. 

 

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March 2022. – WORLD HEARING DAY 2022 CAMPAIGN

WORLD HEARING DAY 2022 CAMPAIGN

Happy World Hearing Day!
Each year on March 3, Help America Hear stands united with health experts around the country who prioritize hearing loss awareness and treatments.
In celebration of World Hearing Day 2022, we are looking for 22 new sustaining donors to join our efforts to help people hear. By chipping in just a few dollars each month or every quarter, we can sustain the two premiere programs that  Help America Hear offers to qualified individuals who are challenged by a hearing loss:
Our Scholarship Fund: which provides five hard of hearing high-school seniors with an award of  $2000.00 as well as a set of brand-new Resound hearing aids
Our Help America Hear Program: which provides a qualifying individual who meets the low/moderate income requirements to receive a brand-new set of Resound hearing aides
World Hearing Day may only happen once a year, but for those that face the challenges of hearing loss- it’s a life-long issue. Please join us in emphasizing the critical need to maintain hearing health and raise the awareness of hearing loss prevention. 
Here are some simple precautions you can follow to preserve and help prevent hearing loss for yourself and those you care about most[DS1] 
https://www.wikihow.health/Prevent-Hearing-Loss
Thank you. We could not do this without your ongoing support.
 
 
 


  
 
 

 

 

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March 2022. – 5 Tips for Working Professionals with Hearing Loss

Help America Hear

It’s not uncommon today to have hearing loss. A more acknowledge disability in recent years, hearing loss in the working world has inspired some great innovations and updates such as automated captions on meeting software like Teams and Zoom. It’s also helped create transparency and conversation around working styles, communication needs and where individuals with hearing loss can lend a beneficially unique perspective and skill set.

But, for those who are the individuals with the hearing loss – a normal work environment can be strenuous.  Jobs that require daily meetings, national and international phone calls, numerous conversations during the day, and ongoing focus and concentration, uses up a lot of cognitive energy. It’s probably not too far-fetched to say that people with hearing loss may know the need for afternoon naps more than most. Personally, I’m exhausted by 2 p.m. and am ready to be in silent mode for the rest of the day just to have a break and rest.

So how can us hard-of-hearing professionals tackle the work week without taking an afternoon siesta? Below are 5 tips to help you tackle your ear-induced energy drain during the week.

 

1. Set Aside Quiet Time

With hearing loss your brain works overtime to process all sounds, and it has to work even harder to focus on speech when distracting ambient noise is also present. This can be tiring for your system, and lead to physical exhausting and cognitive burn-out. One thing you can do to help reduce energy strain is to set aside some time on your calendar each day where you can work in a “quiet” environment. It doesn’t have to be completely silent, but it should be one in which sounds are reduced in a way that you can feel relaxed. Your brain should be able to calm down, slow down and not feel like it has to run a marathon to understand your environment. Mark your calendar for 1-2 hours of “quiet work time” where you set up your workspace wherever you feel your ears can catch a break and your brain can slow down. This could be outside in your backyard if you work from home, or maybe it’s reserving a meeting room for yourself each day so you can shut the door and hideaway a bit.

 

2. Use Caption-Friendly Software Whenever You Can

Captions are truly your new best friend. With meeting software like Zoom and Teams that both offer captions, you will have an easier time in meetings (especially those big department ones). The benefits of using captions in meeting or calls are many.

  1. Reduce risk of missing or misinterpreting words or phrases
  2. Ensure you don’t miss out on key milestones in a meeting or assigned tasks
  3. More easily identify a speaker
  4. Better understand what’s being said regardless of the frequency of a person’s voice
  5. Have a transcript to review later

If you don’t have access to one of these tools, or another that offers captions, talk with your HR department ASAP. Companies are required by law to provide all necessary tools and resources for employees with disabilities, and asking for captions is a little thing that can go a long way.

 

NOTE: If you take more calls on your phone, look at the app Innocaption. It will immediately transcribe all calls you take and keep them for you on your phone. This is great if much of your work is on-the-go or requires phone calls.

 

3. Take 15 Minute Exercise Breaks

When your ears and brain are “always on” – that’s when the fatigue sets in, along with a reduced ability to concentrate, reduced energy to complete tasks, and overall, increases in stress as your body works overtime. Another way to help combat auditory fatigue is to get yourself outside for a 15-minute walk. Go enjoy nature, get some fresh and get away from needing to focus on any specific sound. Just allow yourself to move, breath and embrace being “auditorily unfocused” for 15 minutes. Additionally, some outside time can help reduce stress, improve your concentration, increase Vitamin D levels which protect the neurons in the brain and reduce inflammation, and improve brain function.

4. Eliminate Excess Noise for Meetings or Conversations

This is the tip for that situation many know – “I can HEAR you but I cannot UNDERSTAND you.” At the crux of the hearing loss issue is that it’s not so much about volume but about perception. This situation is common for people with sloping high frequency hearing loss. Because sound waves are sent through the ears like code and then translated into meaning by the brain, when your brain is trying to (1) filter out multiple sounds and speech, and (2) simultaneously translate both, accuracy is often lost. And in truth, everything seems like it gets mixed up like a mess of sound. This is extremely frustrating and can make you want to just give up and check out.

 

When you’re at work, try to avoid this situation but eliminating excess noise around you for meetings or calls. There are a few ways to help do this.

 

Ways to help yourself hear better in meetings or calls

  • Take your calls or meetings in a secluded room (meeting room you can reserve if an office, or at-home, pick a dedicated space where you can shut the door and sound won’t bounce)
  • Try to pick spaces where surfaces are soft so sound waves get absorbed, like carpet or rugs. Some wooden flooring now has sound absorption features, but in general, opt for spaces that will help reduce echo.
  • If you use hearing aids and like how phone calls sound with them, try to always use them and set your devices to eliminate external sound.
  • If you have trouble with calls or voices on calls and don’t use hearing aids, or you do and don’t like how phone call sounds, try noise-cancelling headphones like AirPods or Beats. (Only do this if you can avoid using high volume levels, as doing so will cause further hearing damage.)
  • Ask others in the meeting to keep microphones muted unless they’re speaking. This helps reduce on-call background noise.

5. Drink Your Coffee Routinely 

Caffeine is present in a lot of early morning favored drinks – coffee and tea for example. And while there is still a need for further studies, in 2018 the study “Association of Coffee Consumption with Hearing and Tinnitus Based on a National Population-Based Survey” found interesting correlations between drinking coffee and unilateral hearing loss and bilateral hearing loss. The results are summarized from the Results section in the published study below.

 

“No significant correlation was detected between coffee consumption frequency and unilateral hearing loss across all age groups. No significant correlation was detected between bilateral hearing loss and coffee consumption frequency in the 19–39 and ≥65 years age groups. However, daily coffee consumption resulted in a significantly decreased risk of bilateral hearing loss in the 40–64 years age group, compared with the rare consumption group (adjusted odds ratio (aOR), 0.50; 95% confidence interval (CI), 0.33–0.78; p = 0.0021), whereas monthly or weekly consumers did not show a significant difference relative to rare consumers. In the 40–64 years age group, odds ratio of mild and moderate hearing loss in daily coffee consumers and mild hearing loss in weekly coffee consumers were significantly lower than those of rare coffee consumers (Table S7). In addition, as the frequency of coffee consumption increased there tended to be a decrease in bilateral hearing loss in the 40–64 years age group.” [1]

 

Find What Works For You 

Working with a hearing disability isn’t always easy, but it is possible. From environmental adjustments to advanced technologies and resources from HR, you can find what works best for you to make your professional life enjoyable and manageable.

[1] Lee SY, Jung G, Jang MJ, et al. Association of Coffee Consumption with Hearing and Tinnitus Based on a National Population-Based Survey. Nutrients. 2018;10(10):1429. Published 2018 Oct 4. doi:10.3390/nu10101429

 

[1] Lee SY, Jung G, Jang MJ, et al. Association of Coffee Consumption with Hearing and Tinnitus Based on a National Population-Based Survey. Nutrients. 2018;10(10):1429. Published 2018 Oct 4. doi:10.3390/nu10101429

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Elementor #2363

Help America Hear

MARCH 2022

5 Tips for Working Professionals with Hearing Loss

It’s not uncommon today to have hearing loss. A more acknowledge disability in recent years, hearing loss in the working world has inspired some great innovations and updates such as automated captions on meeting software like Teams and Zoom. It’s also helped create transparency and conversation around working styles, communication needs and where individuals with hearing loss can lend a beneficially unique perspective and skill set.

But, for those who are the individuals with the hearing loss – a normal work environment can be strenuous.  Jobs that require daily meetings, national and international phone calls, numerous conversations during the day, and ongoing focus and concentration, uses up a lot of cognitive energy. It’s probably not too far-fetched to say that people with hearing loss may know the need for afternoon naps more than most. Personally, I’m exhausted by 2 p.m. and am ready to be in silent mode for the rest of the day just to have a break and rest.

So how can us hard-of-hearing professionals tackle the work week without taking an afternoon siesta? Below are 5 tips to help you tackle your ear-induced energy drain during the week.

1. Set Aside Quiet Time

With hearing loss your brain works overtime to process all sounds, and it has to work even harder to focus on speech when distracting ambient noise is also present. This can be tiring for your system, and lead to physical exhausting and cognitive burn-out. One thing you can do to help reduce energy strain is to set aside some time on your calendar each day where you can work in a “quiet” environment. It doesn’t have to be completely silent, but it should be one in which sounds are reduced in a way that you can feel relaxed. Your brain should be able to calm down, slow down and not feel like it has to run a marathon to understand your environment. Mark your calendar for 1-2 hours of “quiet work time” where you set up your workspace wherever you feel your ears can catch a break and your brain can slow down. This could be outside in your backyard if you work from home, or maybe it’s reserving a meeting room for yourself each day so you can shut the door and hideaway a bit.

2. Use Caption-Friendly Software Whenever You Can

Captions are truly your new best friend. With meeting software like Zoom and Teams that both offer captions, you will have an easier time in meetings (especially those big department ones). The benefits of using captions in meeting or calls are many.

  1. Reduce risk of missing or misinterpreting words or phrases
  2. Ensure you don’t miss out on key milestones in a meeting or assigned tasks
  3. More easily identify a speaker
  4. Better understand what’s being said regardless of the frequency of a person’s voice
  5. Have a transcript to review later

If you don’t have access to one of these tools, or another that offers captions, talk with your HR department ASAP. Companies are required by law to provide all necessary tools and resources for employees with disabilities, and asking for captions is a little thing that can go a long way.

NOTE: If you take more calls on your phone, look at the app Innocaption. It will immediately transcribe all calls you take and keep them for you on your phone. This is great if much of your work is on-the-go or requires phone calls.

3. Take 15 Minute Exercise Breaks

When your ears and brain are “always on” – that’s when the fatigue sets in, along with a reduced ability to concentrate, reduced energy to complete tasks, and overall, increases in stress as your body works overtime. Another way to help combat auditory fatigue is to get yourself outside for a 15-minute walk. Go enjoy nature, get some fresh and get away from needing to focus on any specific sound. Just allow yourself to move, breath and embrace being “auditorily unfocused” for 15 minutes. Additionally, some outside time can help reduce stress, improve your concentration, increase Vitamin D levels which protect the neurons in the brain and reduce inflammation, and improve brain function.

4. Eliminate Excess Noise for Meetings or Conversations

This is the tip for that situation many know – “I can HEAR you but I cannot UNDERSTAND you.” At the crux of the hearing loss issue is that it’s not so much about volume but about perception. This situation is common for people with sloping high frequency hearing loss. Because sound waves are sent through the ears like code and then translated into meaning by the brain, when your brain is trying to (1) filter out multiple sounds and speech, and (2) simultaneously translate both, accuracy is often lost. And in truth, everything seems like it gets mixed up like a mess of sound. This is extremely frustrating and can make you want to just give up and check out.

When you’re at work, try to avoid this situation but eliminating excess noise around you for meetings or calls. There are a few ways to help do this.

Ways to help yourself hear better in meetings or calls

  • Take your calls or meetings in a secluded room (meeting room you can reserve if an office, or at-home, pick a dedicated space where you can shut the door and sound won’t bounce)
  • Try to pick spaces where surfaces are soft so sound waves get absorbed, like carpet or rugs. Some wooden flooring now has sound absorption features, but in general, opt for spaces that will help reduce echo.
  • If you use hearing aids and like how phone calls sound with them, try to always use them and set your devices to eliminate external sound.
  • If you have trouble with calls or voices on calls and don’t use hearing aids, or you do and don’t like how phone call sounds, try noise-cancelling headphones like AirPods or Beats. (Only do this if you can avoid using high volume levels, as doing so will cause further hearing damage.)
  • Ask others in the meeting to keep microphones muted unless they’re speaking. This helps reduce on-call background noise.

5. Drink Your Coffee Routinely

Caffeine is present in a lot of early morning favored drinks – coffee and tea for example. And while there is still a need for further studies, in 2018 the study “Association of Coffee Consumption with Hearing and Tinnitus Based on a National Population-Based Survey” found interesting correlations between drinking coffee and unilateral hearing loss and bilateral hearing loss. The results are summarized from the Results section in the published study below.

“No significant correlation was detected between coffee consumption frequency and unilateral hearing loss across all age groups. No significant correlation was detected between bilateral hearing loss and coffee consumption frequency in the 19–39 and ≥65 years age groups. However, daily coffee consumption resulted in a significantly decreased risk of bilateral hearing loss in the 40–64 years age group, compared with the rare consumption group (adjusted odds ratio (aOR), 0.50; 95% confidence interval (CI), 0.33–0.78; p = 0.0021), whereas monthly or weekly consumers did not show a significant difference relative to rare consumers. In the 40–64 years age group, odds ratio of mild and moderate hearing loss in daily coffee consumers and mild hearing loss in weekly coffee consumers were significantly lower than those of rare coffee consumers (Table S7). In addition, as the frequency of coffee consumption increased there tended to be a decrease in bilateral hearing loss in the 40–64 years age group.” [1]

 

Find What Works For You

Working with a hearing disability isn’t always easy, but it is possible. From environmental adjustments to advanced technologies and resources from HR, you can find what works best for you to make your professional life enjoyable and manageable.

[1] Lee SY, Jung G, Jang MJ, et al. Association of Coffee Consumption with Hearing and Tinnitus Based on a National Population-Based Survey. Nutrients. 2018;10(10):1429. Published 2018 Oct 4. doi:10.3390/nu10101429

[1] Lee SY, Jung G, Jang MJ, et al. Association of Coffee Consumption with Hearing and Tinnitus Based on a National Population-Based Survey. Nutrients. 2018;10(10):1429. Published 2018 Oct 4. doi:10.3390/nu10101429

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Blog

March 2022. – 5 Tips for Working Professionals with Hearing Loss

It’s not uncommon today to have hearing loss. A more acknowledge disability in recent years, hearing loss in the working world has inspired some great innovations and updates such as automated captions on meeting software like Teams and Zoom. It’s also helped create transparency and conversation around working styles, communication needs and where individuals with hearing loss can lend a beneficially unique perspective and skill set.

But, for those who are the individuals with the hearing loss – a normal work environment can be strenuous.  Jobs that require daily meetings, national and international phone calls, numerous conversations during the day, and ongoing focus and concentration, uses up a lot of cognitive energy. It’s probably not too far-fetched to say that people with hearing loss may know the need for afternoon naps more than most. Personally, I’m exhausted by 2 p.m. and am ready to be in silent mode for the rest of the day just to have a break and rest.

So how can us hard-of-hearing professionals tackle the work week without taking an afternoon siesta? Below are 5 tips to help you tackle your ear-induced energy drain during the week.

1. Set Aside Quiet Time

With hearing loss your brain works overtime to process all sounds, and it has to work even harder to focus on speech when distracting ambient noise is also present. This can be tiring for your system, and lead to physical exhausting and cognitive burn-out. One thing you can do to help reduce energy strain is to set aside some time on your calendar each day where you can work in a “quiet” environment. It doesn’t have to be completely silent, but it should be one in which sounds are reduced in a way that you can feel relaxed. Your brain should be able to calm down, slow down and not feel like it has to run a marathon to understand your environment. Mark your calendar for 1-2 hours of “quiet work time” where you set up your workspace wherever you feel your ears can catch a break and your brain can slow down. This could be outside in your backyard if you work from home, or maybe it’s reserving a meeting room for yourself each day so you can shut the door and hideaway a bit.

2. Use Caption-Friendly Software Whenever You Can

Captions are truly your new best friend. With meeting software like Zoom and Teams that both offer captions, you will have an easier time in meetings (especially those big department ones). The benefits of using captions in meeting or calls are many.

  1. Reduce risk of missing or misinterpreting words or phrases
  2. Ensure you don’t miss out on key milestones in a meeting or assigned tasks
  3. More easily identify a speaker
  4. Better understand what’s being said regardless of the frequency of a person’s voice
  5. Have a transcript to review later

If you don’t have access to one of these tools, or another that offers captions, talk with your HR department ASAP. Companies are required by law to provide all necessary tools and resources for employees with disabilities, and asking for captions is a little thing that can go a long way.

NOTE: If you take more calls on your phone, look at the app Innocaption. It will immediately transcribe all calls you take and keep them for you on your phone. This is great if much of your work is on-the-go or requires phone calls.

3. Take 15 Minute Exercise Breaks

When your ears and brain are “always on” – that’s when the fatigue sets in, along with a reduced ability to concentrate, reduced energy to complete tasks, and overall, increases in stress as your body works overtime. Another way to help combat auditory fatigue is to get yourself outside for a 15-minute walk. Go enjoy nature, get some fresh and get away from needing to focus on any specific sound. Just allow yourself to move, breath and embrace being “auditorily unfocused” for 15 minutes. Additionally, some outside time can help reduce stress, improve your concentration, increase Vitamin D levels which protect the neurons in the brain and reduce inflammation, and improve brain function.

4. Eliminate Excess Noise for Meetings or Conversations

This is the tip for that situation many know – “I can HEAR you but I cannot UNDERSTAND you.” At the crux of the hearing loss issue is that it’s not so much about volume but about perception. This situation is common for people with sloping high frequency hearing loss. Because sound waves are sent through the ears like code and then translated into meaning by the brain, when your brain is trying to (1) filter out multiple sounds and speech, and (2) simultaneously translate both, accuracy is often lost. And in truth, everything seems like it gets mixed up like a mess of sound. This is extremely frustrating and can make you want to just give up and check out.

When you’re at work, try to avoid this situation but eliminating excess noise around you for meetings or calls. There are a few ways to help do this.

Ways to help yourself hear better in meetings or calls

  • Take your calls or meetings in a secluded room (meeting room you can reserve if an office, or at-home, pick a dedicated space where you can shut the door and sound won’t bounce)
  • Try to pick spaces where surfaces are soft so sound waves get absorbed, like carpet or rugs. Some wooden flooring now has sound absorption features, but in general, opt for spaces that will help reduce echo.
  • If you use hearing aids and like how phone calls sound with them, try to always use them and set your devices to eliminate external sound.
  • If you have trouble with calls or voices on calls and don’t use hearing aids, or you do and don’t like how phone call sounds, try noise-cancelling headphones like AirPods or Beats. (Only do this if you can avoid using high volume levels, as doing so will cause further hearing damage.)
  • Ask others in the meeting to keep microphones muted unless they’re speaking. This helps reduce on-call background noise.

5. Drink Your Coffee Routinely 

Caffeine is present in a lot of early morning favored drinks – coffee and tea for example. And while there is still a need for further studies, in 2018 the study “Association of Coffee Consumption with Hearing and Tinnitus Based on a National Population-Based Survey” found interesting correlations between drinking coffee and unilateral hearing loss and bilateral hearing loss. The results are summarized from the Results section in the published study below.

“No significant correlation was detected between coffee consumption frequency and unilateral hearing loss across all age groups. No significant correlation was detected between bilateral hearing loss and coffee consumption frequency in the 19–39 and ≥65 years age groups. However, daily coffee consumption resulted in a significantly decreased risk of bilateral hearing loss in the 40–64 years age group, compared with the rare consumption group (adjusted odds ratio (aOR), 0.50; 95% confidence interval (CI), 0.33–0.78; p = 0.0021), whereas monthly or weekly consumers did not show a significant difference relative to rare consumers. In the 40–64 years age group, odds ratio of mild and moderate hearing loss in daily coffee consumers and mild hearing loss in weekly coffee consumers were significantly lower than those of rare coffee consumers (Table S7). In addition, as the frequency of coffee consumption increased there tended to be a decrease in bilateral hearing loss in the 40–64 years age group.” [1]

 

Find What Works For You 

Working with a hearing disability isn’t always easy, but it is possible. From environmental adjustments to advanced technologies and resources from HR, you can find what works best for you to make your professional life enjoyable and manageable.

[1] Lee SY, Jung G, Jang MJ, et al. Association of Coffee Consumption with Hearing and Tinnitus Based on a National Population-Based Survey. Nutrients. 2018;10(10):1429. Published 2018 Oct 4. doi:10.3390/nu10101429

[1] Lee SY, Jung G, Jang MJ, et al. Association of Coffee Consumption with Hearing and Tinnitus Based on a National Population-Based Survey. Nutrients. 2018;10(10):1429. Published 2018 Oct 4. doi:10.3390/nu10101429