Hearing Loss: There Are No Universal Truths

Why are we more likely to believe something if it’s in a bold type face?

The answer is in the book, Thinking Fast and Slow, by Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman.

According to Kahneman, there are many common biases that play a role in shaping our view of people and of situations.

Another one is the halo effect. If you like a president’s politics, you probably like his voice and his appearance as well. The halo effect is the tendency to like (or dislike) everything about a person or a situation.

I was on the receiving end of this bias as a hearing care professional, back in the days when I used to fit hearing aids. I sometimes dreaded the first follow up appointment after a client got new hearing aids. I would ask, “So, how did things go with your new hearing aids?” A list of complaints would follow. “I can’t hear this, I can’t hear that, I can’t hear anything when there is background noise.” Surely that can’t be true? Nothing?

A clue that “all or nothing” thinking is happening are the words, “anything,” “everything,” and “nothing.”

I think that is why I am so passionate about brain training with LACE. Not only does hearing in noise improve, but it involves consumers in their own success. After completing LACE training, it would be highly unlikely that a person would say, “I can’t hear anything when there is background noise.” This training program brings about an awareness that there is no universal truth about your ability to hear in noise. This ability is not a fixed entity—it can improve, with training.

All or nothing thinking is also evident elsewhere in the hearing care industry. There is an unfortunate emphasis on hearing aid technology as the only entry point to hearing loss rehabilitation. The all or nothing thinking is: “If you are not ready for hearing aids, there is nothing I can do for you.” But often, people are willing to take smaller steps—and through this experience, they become more open to the idea of using hearing aid technology.

As an audiologist with hearing loss, I plead guilty to all or nothing thinking too. If I meet someone who does not communicate clearly, and I can’t understand most of what they are saying, I give up. I tend to think about that person forevermore, “I can’t understand anything that he says.”

I experienced this again recently as I was preparing materials for a study guide for the Seeing and Hearing Speech lip-reading program. There are a handful of models in the program’s video clips, and two of them in particular are brutal to lip-read.

After my first exposure to these two models, I caught myself saying, “I can’t understand them. Period.” The next time one of them appeared in a lip-reading module, I had just read Kahneman’s book, and I was aware of a potential bias; so I tried to keep an open mind.

What happened next was an eye-opener, because I found I actually could understand him, if I stayed relaxed. It’s important to keep trying. It’s important to keep paying attention. A good lesson to learn, again.


Related Posts:

Start with Small Changes

Hearing in Noise: the Holy Grail

Overcome Ridiculous Listening Conditions

What? Pardon? Sorry?

  • Photo credit:  © Alan Fortune

    Sandra Vandenhoff

    Dr. Sandra Vandenhoff is an audiologist with hearing loss, founder of HEARa, Hearing Strategies coach, speaker, and Canadian author, who gave her GPS away long before realizing that it was a good brain-boosting move.

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