Something for us olds

I’ve been avoiding the scourge so far, but I know a few people who are dealing with it.


  1. wajim says

    Thanks for that. Wish I would have seen out several years ago when I was caring for my elderly mom, who had hearing aids but refused to use them (for a number of reasons). Now that my own hearing loss is starting to have noticeable effects (at 59, after a dozen-too-many rock concerts, one AC/DC show in particular) I realize what she was dealing with. Tinnitus, the inability to distinguish speech with any background noise (for ex., if I’m running water in the sink, don’t bother speaking at all), and dealing with folks who, like me, didn’t understand, co-workers/bosses becoming exasperated, thinking you’ stupid, and so on. It has a real impact on one’s life.

  2. anat says

    There may be better technology than hearing aids: See – it’s a wristband that amplifies sound waves to your skin, and your brain learns to interpret the vibrations on your wrist as sound. I learned of this from Eagleman’s Town Hall talk.

  3. says

    I wish my parents got this. They both are starting to suffer from hearing loss and they get pissy and shouty with each other because of it.

  4. says

    It runs in the DNA for me, nearly all on one side can’t hear. I’ve got tinnitus and am trying to protect what’s left (i.e. always wearing earplugs when I go to the club). I need people to stand in front of me so both ears can pick it up. I’ve lost count of those who accuse me of “rudely ignoring them” when they were inaudible, talking to me from behind, or they turned their heads. About a year ago, I told everyone “text messages only from now on, no phone calls”. It’s okay if I’m at home and can plug the phone into quality speakers and use a microphone, but not when I’m on the go.

    The problem with phones is compression. Early telephone companies compressed the range of sound so they could get more calls (about four) into a single phone line. For commercial reasons it makes sense, but it sounds like crap, even if your ears are good (i.e. why hold music always sounds tinny). If the range of sound you can hear is narrow, talking on a compressed phone connection ranges from difficult to impossible. Digital phones aren’t any better because companies still compress sound to get more calls in and make more money. Skype, zoom, youtube and others are fine because the sound range is wider (and 128kbps bitrates). Even AM/FM radio is better than phones.

  5. raven says

    It’s even worse because quite often these days, people wear masks.
    Talking through a mask and trying to make yourself understood is always a little bit harder.

  6. dorght says

    00 Don’t use speaker phone! Talk directly into the phone.

    I have some minor hearing degradation (jet engines, machine shops, and ex). Worse, however, is my lifelong struggle with auditory processing disorder*. Trying to converse with someone when they use speaker phone gives me a raging headache and makes me distant and unresponsive because I’m working so hard to understand what they said even over minor background noise.
    Video conferencing isn’t nearly as bad. Must be the being able to fill in with lip reading.

    *Original diagnoses in grade school, sometime in the late 60s, was ‘lazy tongue’. All my father needed to hear was ‘lazy’ to start building my lifelong resentment over mocking and ridicule.
    ‘Spell it like it sounds’ and ‘sound it out’ are meaningless to me. I’ve learn spelling mostly by rote. Spellcheck has been a godsend, not as an easy crutch, but because I get instant feedback to help correct my learning. Alexa is also great since I can ask her how to spell something when I can’t even get enough out for spellcheck to work with. And yes I’m sorry but it is very difficult to learn grade school level punctuation when you’re struggling to write out the simple words of a sentence.

  7. whheydt says

    My mother had pretty extreme hearing loss, end up at 90% loss in one ear and 95% in the other. So I grew up communicating with someone with those problems. Certainly would up with having an ability to speak clearly.

  8. billseymour says

    I spent about $6k for a pair of top-of-the-line hearing aids to better understand human speech, and I’m mostly glad I did.  They amplify the frequencies that I’ve mostly lost; and they communicate with each other via bluetooth to kinda sorta focus on what’s in front of me.  I can watch TV without cranking up the volume to eleven and so disturb my neighbors (I live in an apartment); and I have no trouble with face-to-face conversation with a handful of others.  I still have a bit of a problem in meetings in large rooms with ambient noise.

  9. davidc1 says

    Pah ,when i am really ,really old ,i hope to be deaf as a post .In fact i might pretend to be deaf just to piss everyone off .

  10. anxionnat says

    As I had to say to someone from a doctors’ office yesterday, “Slow down!” I’ve only got a bit of hearing loss, but she was talking so fast I couldn’t understand her. (This was a person who presumably deals with sick people all the time, but she was talking at machine-gun speed, and clearly not directly into the phone.) I had to repeat, “Slow down and speak up!” when she started up again.

  11. Paul K says

    Can anyone tell me where I might find this poster in a printable form? My wife’s supervisor has hearing loss, and I bet she’d like to post this. They’re both librarians in our little town.

  12. Owlmirror says

    @Paul K: It’s very hard to make out, but the blurry text at the bottom points to the website of Dr Lynne Lim, where I found a non-blurry version:

    10 things someone with hearing loss wish others know.

    There are more infographic posters at the first link, including the very worrying 10 things to know about hearing loss:

    [¡]Moderate HL increases the risk of brain cognitive decline by 35%, and dementia by 300%[!]


    [¡]Mild HL increases falls and hospitalisation by 300%[!]

  13. Owlmirror says

    While the good doctor’s posters are informative about hearing loss, I could grumble a bit about how the visual design could use some fixing. The above isn’t so bad, but there’s several with light blue text on a lighter blue background with small characters. That low-contrast format is very hard to see to read.

  14. TGAP Dad says

    I got a clearer understanding of the effects of hearing loss when I needed a mastoidectomy to remove what was thought to be a small cholesteatoma in one ear. It turned out that a large cholesteatoma had by then destroyed ½ the bone mass of the middle ear and eaten away a sizable chunk of mastoid bone. I guess it’s nature’s revenge that I now have the condition for which we’d chide my grandfather, and for which I now have hearing aids. Age comes for us all, in the end.

  15. wolja says

    if we could add, for most with hearing loss, speak in a lower tone and slower.

    Owlmirror right on. The number of times, before magnifying apps on phones, I have had to ask for help reading blue on orange or white on most anything is beyond insane

  16. brucej says

    Having worn hearing aids since I was sixteen (to compensate for what turned out to be probable neonatal nerve damage…I was a preemie, and this is a common consequence, but I had an idiot ENT who thought my hearing loss was due to allergies.) I have been dealing with this crap all my life.

    Modern hearing aids do freaking wonders. Sadly they’re insanely costly mostly due to low volume (no pun intended) and an huge amount of industry consolidation, but mine have like 16 auto-adjustable frequency adjustments, noise suppression, numerous program slots, bluetooth connectivity to my phone, etc. The “retail” price is ~$8k each, fortunately my insurance covers it

    My first one was essentially an analog amplifier. It just made everything louder, and only in one ear.

  17. says

    Yeah it’s awful. The hearing aids cost a fortune, chew through batteries and are not the most robust items, not far behind mobile phone screens. Iam now deaf to the point where at ones I can’t understand my wife even if she is standing close and facing me. Other people, particularly with strong accents are almost incomprehensible. It makes phone calls a nightmare. I usually give up and hand the phone to my wife to interpret. I love languages but my hearing loss means I have trouble learning to speak them. Basically I can’t hear myself properly so don’t pronounce words properly. This brings me to another problem. If I can’t hear myself speak I have to speak loudly. My wife regularly forgets this and thinks I’m angry with her which leads to even more shouting usually followed by a long unpleasant silence.

  18. M Manu Rere says

    I don’t have hearing loss per se, but I have a neurology-related difficulty in separating speech from ambient sounds; most of this still applies.

    (Also: let me reiterate the request that you turn towards the people you’re speaking to. A lot of articulation in speech is in the frequencies that get blocked if you speak away from somebody, and some of us need every advantage we can get if we’re trying to understand you. This also makes it easier for people who depend partially or entirely on seeing your mouth in order to understand you when you speak.)

  19. rossmile says

    @garydargan – you do not state what your test speech recognition is. Second, you have to be absolutely sure you are fitted properly, which you have look into. Bad fitting of any good digital aid equals what you describe if your hearing is correctable.

  20. magistramarla says

    I have a double-whammy. Not only do I have a hearing loss, I also have a voice problem, called Spasmodic Dysphonia.
    My husband has a low voice, mumbles and doesn’t face me when he talks.
    He also can’t hear me very well, since my voice is so whispery and shaky.
    The most common phrase in our house is “Huh? What?”

  21. Occam's Machete says

    11 When you start a conversation give me a chance to pause the podcast I have playing through my hearing aids. I am the future!

  22. Ridana says

    I have always thought ASL should be a required course in school from early on. It would need to be taught at all grade levels to start, but eventually could probably be cut back to maybe grades K-4, with maybe supplementary classes later? I dunno, experts could determine what’s best. But if pretty much everyone knew sign language, it would help everyone, from those deaf from birth to those who acquire hearing loss later on to whatever degree. Even people without any loss would benefit in noisy situations like concerts and bars.
    Also, while ASL is for English, it doesn’t follow all the same rules, and there are other signing languages, it could still help bridge some linguistic gaps between those whose first language isn’t English and native speakers (not to mention better communication with Deaf people). And even though becoming fluent isn’t simple, sign language can be understood even when it’s not signed very fluently. Worst case, you can usually be understood with just fingerspelling, if that’s all you’ve got.
    Yeah I know, there are some kinks in this plan, but it could work if we cared to make it work. It wouldn’t solve all problems but I can’t think of any downside to more people being able to sign. I’m sure someone will though. :)

  23. redwood says

    My father had hearing loss, my two brothers have it and so do I, though it’s not terrible yet. The problem for me is that I teach ESL at a Japanese university, where hearing what the students say is the most important part of my job. Fortunately, hearing aids help a lot, though they aren’t covered under health insurance here. The pandemic has actually made teaching easier for me because I’m now doing classes via Zoom, where headphones let me hear everyone fine.

  24. wzrd1 says

    Would that I had a proper ASL or even, universal sign language course of multiple types

    I’m hard of hearing, my hearing aids failed and are out of price range for repair or replacement with superior units, but had to deal with a deaf man, who was also growing increasingly blind, but great at his job – at a senior command level position.
    It took officers in his department to figure out his problems and properly address them, I enlisted the EEO to help.
    The contract lapsed before I could lear ASL.
    And I suck at lip reading. Likely linked to face blindness and dyslexia.
    As my hearing range decays,

    Oh well, huh still usually worksish.
    As hearing isn’t considered a right, as addressing it would cost too much, outside of children. Once adults, shit out of luck.
    Welcome to my life, torn between deciding upon homicide or suicide.
    I suspect readers here know that answer…
    For new readers, never found a need to call a suicide hotline and alas, we have no homicide hotline to call and I’m retired military.

    Oh well, we’re now officially on the transplant list for full body transplants.
    They’ll become available wen fusion power is gainfully achieved… :/

    One needs to have a sense of humor. I’ll review, yet again, the platypus… ;)
    Well, that and my mirror.

  25. prfesser says

    For those dealing with hearing loss and expensive hearing aids, check out Costco. I had to drive two hours each way to the nearest one. Three trips: hearing test and order aids; having the aids fitted to you; follow up a few months later. Well worth the cost of membership and the driving. Their Kirkland brand behind-the-ear hearing aids were $1800 a pair. I bought name-brand high-quality Phonax, $2500 a pair. Expensive, yes, but far less so than the local hearing-aid vendors or the local MDs. By contrast, I bought a single hearing aid from the local vendor some years before. Paid $1100 for a medium-crappy quality unit. :(

  26. shelldigger says

    I can relate. 30 years + as a commercial diver, playing guitar in a classic rock cover band, going to concerts and beer joints with live bands has taken its toll. The tinnitus is constant.

    It is frustrating when I’m in the kitchen, washing dishes, the air is on, and the washer/dryer running, and the wife mumbles something from the other room. I’m like, I can tell you’re talking but I can’t understand you! Or I’m in the shower, she walks in and says something the moment my head is under the water. C’mon man!

    Not to mention the wife is a low talker anyway. In a quiet setting she says something and it’s hard to hear her then. I know my hearing has taken a hit, but a little situational awareness would go a long way when attempting to speak to someone who has a constant ringing in their head.

    I love you dear :)

  27. Bad Bart says

    Yes to all of that, but I’d like to remind people to avoid labeling hearing loss as just an aging problem. I got my first hearing aids in my early 40’s, spurred on because I couldn’t hear my 2-year old. I quickly wished I’d been tested and fitted 10 years earlier, instead of holding out since I wasn’t “old enough” to need hearing aids.

    Also, another vote for Costco for hearing aids. My current Bluetooth-enabled, iPhone linked, rechargeable name-brand hearing aids were just under $3K for the pair. I would also look at some of the online-only providers who have EOM agreements with the big players.

  28. says

    Unfortunately, the poster mixes different classes of accommodation. When I talk to people about how to talk with me, I prefer to keep things clearly separated.

    My poster would go something like this:

    01 Please speak one a time.
    02 Please disable background noises.
    06 Please speak clearly and slowly.
    08 Please face me/your microphone when you speak.
    08b Learn how your microphone works!

    03 Dealing with poor acoustics is tiring
    04 I am not rude or stupid. I’m just tired. (See 03)
    05 When you get frustrated, just think what it’s like from my side. (See 03)
    07 When I ask you to repeat, I didn’t hear you. I’m not asking you to rephrase. If I hear but don’t understand I will say so.
    09 Just asking me “can’t you get better hearing aids?’ or “have you tried turning on auto-subtitles in Teams?” is as insulting as “have you tried not being deaf?” You may assume that I know more about corrective and assistive technology for my problems than you do.

  29. dusk says

    There’s been some interesting developments in hair cell regeneration studies in europe recently. My partner is registered for medical trials, they are currently only taking people with sever hearing loss in both ears but are planning to expand the trials soon. It’s a drug that is applied to the inner ear to make the sensory hair cells regenerate. It would be a game changer if they figured it out. Further info here for anyone interested:

  30. rossmile says

    @Bob Dowling – Agree and would add to 07: Raising your voice will most probably decrease my comprehension as I have already made aids adjustments for environment and volume with my remote.