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Can you repeat that please?

If you are living with hearing loss, this is probably a phrase you find yourself using a lot. And you’re not alone.

One in six Australians has hearing loss (Source: Shutterstock)
One in six Australians has hearing loss (Source: Shutterstock)

One in six Australians has hearing loss and with an ageing population and younger Australians increasing exposure to dangerous leisure noise levels, this is predicted to increase to one in four by 2050.

Hearing loss can make daily communication with the people around you harder, but it needn’t restrict you from having an active social life or participating in social events.

For instance, simply by positioning yourself so you are facing the person you are talking to, their sound is going directly to you and this makes it easier to hear them. This also makes it easier for you to pick up on visual cues to help you understand the conversation.

Here are some other strategies you can use to make it easier to hear and understand, and most of all, enjoy socialising and avoid isolation:

Arrange your home

Small changes to your home can go a long way in helping make life easier. You may want to rearrange furniture so you’re naturally facing people, and change lighting – ideally the light should be on the speakers face rather than you looking into it. Covering echoing floorboards with rugs or installing a carpet will also help dampen background noise.

Outside your home

When choosing a restaurant or café to meet a friend or colleague, look for sound absorbing features, such as a carpet or heavy curtains. Consider meeting at a less popular cafe or arrange to meet at time when there is likely to fewer people. Ask or select a table away from the kitchen and clattering dishes and ideally seat yourself with your back to the wall, facing your companions.

Hearing aids

If you have been advised to wear hearing aids, use them! Using hearing aids does take a bit of getting used to, so make sure you speak to your specialist so you fully understand how to get the best out of your aid and what the limitations are.

Other devices

As well as hearing aids, there are now an array of assistive gadgets and devices to help those living with hearing loss or a hearing impairment. These include wireless alert systems for doorbells, smoke detectors and telephones, vibrating alarm clocks, devices for the TV and mobile phone and personal amplifiers.

Your audiologist, doctor or hearing specialist can assist with giving you information about organisations that can help.

Educating others

Don’t be afraid of telling people about your hearing loss, and explaining what they need to do to help with communications. Ask them to speak clearly but not to shout or over exaggerate words. Also ask them not to cover their mouth when talking, keep their head up and to situate themselves at a distance that is easy for you to see their face. You may also need to advice people who speak quickly or who have a strong accent to speak slower.

If you feel you’ve missed an essential part of the conversation, it’s OK ask them to repeat that part.

The more people understand how to communicate with you, and others who are living with a hearing impairment, the better!

This article was created with support from Better Hearing Australia (VIC). Visit the Better Hearing Australia website for more information and support.

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