Newsletter - August/September 2012

Download a pdf of this newsletter

Tips for the Hearing Impaired Traveler

The tickets have been purchased and the vacation plans are complete. What else does the person with hearing loss need to do to really enjoy their travels?

PLAN AHEAD

  • Get to the station/airport early, so you can sit close to the counter.
  • Put a fresh set of batteries in your hearing aids before you leave home. This will help you avoid needing to change batteries during your travel time.

BE ASSERTIVE

  • Let the attendant at the gate know that you have a hearing loss. Ask them to look at you when speaking to you.
  • Ask someone sitting near you in the gate area to let you know what is being said over the intercom system if it pertains to your flight.
  • Let the flight attendants and seat mates know that you may have trouble hearing them and ask them to be sure you answer when asked a question.

RESERVE THE BEST SEAT

When traveling on a bus, train or plane:

  • Sit in the window seat. This will turn you away from the glare of the window and provide better ease in lip reading.
  • Sit in the front or middle of the cabin. The engine noise in the back of the plane will cause difficulty in hearing speech.

In the car:

  • Turn off the radio if it is interfering with your conversation.
  • Tell people to turn to talk to you unless they are the driver.

In any of these situations, DO NOT TRY TO BLUFF! You will find that you are only making life harder for yourself!

Protect Yourself Against Misdiagnosis

A recent article by Michael Ann Bower in Hearing Loss Magazine (January/February 2012) addressed the danger of persons with hearing loss being misdiagnosed as having dementia. A commonly used assessment tool for dementia called the Mini-Mental State Exam (MMSE) poses a problem for the hearing impaired. This tool is given orally and many of the instructions may not be clear to the hearing impaired individual. Therefore, one might be misdiagnosed with dementia. Once misdiagnosed, symptoms might be attributed incorrectly as a part of dementia rather than to a serious medical condition that the patient might have.
Everyone should have a plan in place, in case of an emergency where they may not be able to speak for themselves. Here are the steps recommended by the author:

  1. Let your neighbors know about your hearing loss. Ask them to inform the ambulance and fire personnel, if needed.
  2. Wear a Medic Alert bracelet/necklace that identifies you as a hearing impaired person.
  3. Have signage on your refrigerator door that identifies you as a hearing impaired person who needs their hearing aid. The inside of your front door is another recommended location for the signage.
  4. Keep your hearing aids in a visible location or describe the location on the signage.
  5. Let your family and close friends know your hearing needs. Remind your primary physician and medical staff of your hearing needs each time you see them.
  6. If possible, get to know the first responders in your area.
  7. Put together a kit to take with you to the hospital. This might include fresh batteries, a case for the hearing aids, and cleaning tools.
  8. Inform your family that signage should be placed in your room stating you are hearing impaired.

So, as the old saying goes, "If we fail to plan, we plan to fail." Plan ahead for better care.

Plan Entertaining to Your Advantage

August has arrived and we will soon be planning for Labor Day get-togethers as well as the upcoming NFL season. As a hearing impaired individual, you can plan your gathering so it has the most communication friendly atmosphere.

  • Keep the number of guests low. Communication is best in smaller groups.
  • Buffet Style allows you to move from person to person to talk.
  • If people will be sitting at a table, oval or round tables give you the best view of all of those at the table. Square card tables bring you close to all at the table.
  • Seat people who you hear best close to you. (Yes, place cards are a good idea!)
  • Request that people at your table speak one at a time.
  • If you will have centerpieces, keep the height relatively low so you can see everyone.
  • Paper plates, cups and plastic flatware is quieter. If the event allows, use them.
  • Consider the lighting. Do not place people in front of a bright window. Be sure the lighting is neither too bright nor too dim. Check this at night.
  • Avoid foods that require a great deal of chewing or crunching. These can interfere with communication.
  • Determine the time of the party by the time of day that you are at your best.
  • If hosting a "game night," pick games that are easy for you to understand and follow.
  • If entertaining in a restaurant, rent a party room.

Apnea and Hearing Loss

A recent study seems to have linked obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) with sudden sensorineural hearing loss. These are preliminary results with further study to follow. This means that by completing a sleep study and using a CPAP machine if diagnosed with apnea may not only allow your spouse to sleep better, but may also save your hearing.