Blog: A Summer Hearing Challenge

Summer is in full swing and as we find our world increasingly more open and “normal,” many are anxious to enjoy a season regularly filled with activities and celebrations. After a year like no other, I know I crave interactions that have been put on hold and activities that were once so commonplace.

As you likely find yourself more immersed with family, friends and gatherings, your hearing may come to the forefront. If you currently wear hearing aids, you may admit you didn’t wear them as much as normal during the pandemic. If so, you aren’t alone. You also may find yourself “readjusting to the sounds you’re hearing” as you get back into the swing of using them. Or like others, you may have found you depended more on your ability to hear given how masks, plexiglass barriers and distance impact speech clarity.

As a hearing impaired individual, I feel I’ve always had a “knack” for compensating well for what my ears don’t do perfectly. I often use visual and contextual cues quite seamlessly to “fill in the blanks.” Some of you may know I have two children, 2 and 4 years old, and as many parents will attest, children have a beautiful capability of filling your heart to the brim with love while simultaneously testing every ounce of your patience. I often reflect in moments of frustration or tantrums if my ability to correctly hear “toddler speech” has influenced the situation. Was my temper shorter than normal because I wasn’t understanding what was said? Was I more stressed from a day at work and my concentration (and thus ability to auditorily compensate) not functioning optimally? Note: these behaviors don’t just apply to communicating with toddlers.

My challenge to the Wellness Center community is to use the summer to reflect on your hearing. There are so many dynamic situations during this time of year that can be confounded by imperfect hearing. A wedding, a concert, an afternoon with grandchildren, a dinner party with friends at a restaurant, fireworks. Do you find yourself struggling to understand conversation? Or the age old “I know that someone said something, but I don’t know what they said.” Do you break down trying to hear in noisy places? Have you ever had your hearing tested? A baseline test is a beautiful thing. Are you taking appropriate steps to protect your hearing when exposed to loud noise?

Or, are you on the receiving end? Do you notice others around you that may be showing signs of not hearing well? Some telltale indications are frequently asking for repetition, answering incorrectly, exhaustion after a “listening intensive” event. Hearing loss can very quickly cause a communication breakdown and lead to reclusion. Advocacy is such an important tool, not only for yourself but for loved ones as well. Those with hearing loss are quick to feel as though they are impinging on the conversation if they ask for repetition. Many simply don’t want to divulge they didn’t understand what was said, which can lead to the ever popular “smile and nod.” I know I’m guilty of this on many occasions, especially before I started wearing hearing aids. The problem with this tactic is it often becomes a slippery slope of avoidance.

My summers tend to be a whirlwind of working full time, soaking up the little time I have with my kids and their early bedtimes and living for the weekend. We are so fortunate to be able to spend most weekends in Lake Geneva with lots of time boating… again, not the easiest listening situation, but I am always working on being a better communicator with my family. And we’re all happier for it. I challenge you to pay attention to your hearing and the hearing of those around you. What modifications can you make that may provide a positive impact on your or others’ quality of life? We, at North Shore Audio-Vestibular Lab, are always happy to help if we can be of service for any hearing and balance needs.

Most importantly, have a wonderful and healthy summer!

By Kristie Trester, AuD

June 30, 2021

The Forward Focus Wellness Center is a unique collaboration in medical care housed in the Forward Focus Concierge Medicine suite in Lake Forest, IL.  The Wellness Center offers highly trained health care professionals, like Kristie Trester, from diverse disciplines.  These affiliated independent practices are here and ready to help you enhance your healthy lifestyle.