People with hearing loss who have ineffective communication strategies (such as pretending to understand) are more likely to be lonely and introverted. This has been proven in adults with profound hearing loss. I’ve often wondered if this also applied to people with milder hearing loss.
Then I read an interview with Peter Stelmacovich, an audiologist, musician, and blogger who has profound hearing loss.
Peter was talking about using FM systems (remote microphones, aka these days as DM systems), and the obstacles to using them. He said, “The biggest obstacle is often [people with hearing loss] themselves. They feel it is a burden to carry the device and may be embarrassed by it. I have never been mocked or ridiculed for using my FM system. On the contrary, people are fascinated by it and have no problems cooperating with me.
I have been told countless times by others that their father or mother should use an FM device ‘since their hearing loss is much worse than yours, Peter.’ I highly doubt that, but it goes to show that people are judging my degree of impairment not by the multitude of devices that I use (hearing aid, cochlear implant, FM system), but rather by my ability to function.
In short, people think their father [with a typical hearing loss associated with aging] has a greater degree of impairment than [me], a deafened adult with a cochlear implant. The FM system makes me appear less disabled. This is a huge compliment to me.”
Peter is right. Time and time again I’ve met older adults with hearing loss who did not want to use technology to help them to communicate. There are many reasons for this. An often-stated fear is that wearing hearing aids will make you seem less capable, or less “with it.”
As Peter has pointed out, when you’re using technology that helps you communicate, a typical reaction is that people are curious and interested. They want to know how it works. Rather than perceiving you to be less capable, you are perceived as right on top of your game and well informed.
Peter’s use of technology makes his profound hearing loss seem much less disabling than a person with a milder hearing loss who refuses to get help. In the end, how you function in communication situations will determine what people think about you. If you need technology to help you participate fully in conversations, and you embrace the technology and all the benefits, all the power to you.
Technology rocks! I would not be where I am today without it.