It’s national Hearing Awareness Week 2018 and this Saturday (3 March) is World Hearing Day. In part these initiatives aim to raise awareness on the issues people with hearing loss encounter on a daily basis.
Josephine Murphy is a highly valued member of the Mackay Hearing team and has profound hearing loss. Jo is passionate about raising awareness on hearing health. Jo is keen to share her personal experiences and insights on the challenges of communicating with a hearing loss.
Hearing with my eyes
By Josephine Murphy
I was born with Microtia (little to no outer ear) and no ear canal on my right side, and a profound hearing loss on my left side. I use a behind-the-ear hearing aid in my left ear. Without my hearing aid, life is pretty quiet. With my hearing aid, hearing through one ear has it’s challenges.
People with hearing loss need to concentrate hard to distinguish each sound and word, and using context to evaluate what the speaker is likely to have said. A recent test at Mackay Hearing showed that I am more of a visual listener – for me that means reading peoples lips (lip reading).
Having a simple conversation in good listening conditions is generally a walk in the park! Good listening conditions means no or very little background noise and the other person facing me (so I can see their lips) and speaking clearly and steadily. This type of environment is ideal, but it isn’t always the case.
Noisy environments, quiet speaking, not being able to see the speakers’ lips, group gatherings, are all very challenging to hear well. There are times I will just stop listening in group discussions to take a break because it’s such an effort to concentrate the whole time to hear every word spoken. There are times I will only pick up on bits and pieces and then try to piece together what the conversation is about.
If I am concentrating at work, driving, gardening, home duties etc and someone speaks, I find it very difficult to hear. I constantly remind my husband and children that they need to have my attention before speaking to me – my brain needs to be programmed to ‘talking mode’ as I say. As I only hear in one ear, I also remind my family and friends to speak on my ‘hearing side’, when I sit at tables I make sure I sit on the right of everyone. When eating out, I choose a quiet spot in the dining room and I tell people about my situation so they understand, it’s about educating and raising awareness as well. It’s a lot to think about!
The concentration required to listen can be exhausting whether at home with the kids or at school, work, parties etc. My husband could never truly understand how I felt until he spent a couple of days with a work colleague not fluent in English. He came home absolutely wrecked because he had to concentrate so much to make out the words – exactly how I feel after a lot of people contact. This was a great way for him to experience what it’s like for me.
I used to shy away from telling people I had a hearing loss, I didn’t want people to see me as different. Not explaining my situation was difficult, because I had to work harder to hear. I know now that it’s OK to have hearing loss, and I’m comfortable explaining my situation and asking people to repeat themselves. It’s also wonderful I am able to use technology – with technology, my hearing mostly is not different to able hearing people.
I explain to my children that having hearing loss is like having to wear glasses to read, but people have to help me to hear by remembering a few simple rules. Have my attention, be face to face, if it’s noisy get closer, speak steady and clearly and don’t cover those lips – I need to see them to fully hear!
So next time you’re speaking to someone, and they don’t hear, just be mindful they could be hard of hearing – no one is perfect we are all unique in our own way.
Josephine Murphy and Jodie Miles
Find out more about Mackay Hearing at mackayhearing.com.au or call 4952 4649.