Having a hearing loss should in no way mean that you miss out on any aspect of your life. While social outings may seem daunting, the tips below will help you get the most out of your hearing aids when you go out.
Why a hearing loss can make outings difficult
For people with hearing loss, background noise is always going to make social engagements that much more challenging. Background noise may consist of people speaking around you, multiple people in your group talking at once, music playing, or other environmental noises and machinery. To better understand what is being said, you have to strain to catch a few words and concentrate on the speaker’s face to read their lips or facial expressions for clues. This effort is exhausting and can lead to misunderstandings and confusion, especially in those background noise situations. Hearing loss removes the clarity of speech and being in a loud environment compounds this. Luckily, there are many solutions available.
If you have a hearing loss that is affecting your participation in everyday life, the first thing you need to do is contact a hearing health professional. You may likely require hearing aids. For outings, in particular, you will need hearing aids with more advanced noise control features and additional programs to cater to different environments.
Additional technology that may help
- Phone apps that connect to hearing aids offer additional adjustments specifically for noise.
- Most hearing aid manufacturers offer an external portable microphone accessory (companion microphone) that transmits speech into hearing aids from further away and in noisy environments.
- Induction loop systems are installed in many venues, they send sound directly into hearing aids that contain a telecoil.
General tips for outings
- Quieter places such as museums, galleries, or zoos may require less listening effort. An added benefit is that these often have written as well as auditory information, so you are less likely to miss anything.
- If you’re going somewhere noisy, try to go at a time and on a day that will be quieter, such as during the week, early evening, or in the off-season.
- Outings in smaller groups (up to four people) are better to minimize the chance of people talking over each other and the conversation becoming too difficult to follow.
- Find out where you’re going to plan what you may need. If possible, contact the venue to determine whether anything is in place for people with hearing loss. Ask if any of the following is available; captioning services, induction loop systems, or online menus. Also, enquire about the acoustic environment; do they play background music, when are their busiest times, is there a quieter seating area where your group may sit?
- If someone else is planning the outing, explain to them that a quieter environment and smaller group would be best.
- Always keep extra hearing aid batteries with you. If you use rechargeable batteries, make sure they, and any additional accessories you may need, are fully charged.
- Before the outing, try to remember a few things about the people you are meeting that may come up in conversation, such as children’s names, recent holiday destinations, or job details so that you are less likely to get confused about what is being discussed.
- Apply general communication strategies, such as always looking directly at the person who is speaking. Ask for clarification or repetition if you miss something.
Tips for specific outings
Going to a restaurant
- It is best to sit in a well-lit, quiet section. Often sitting in a corner helps minimize background noise.
- Choose a restaurant that you know is quieter or does not have loud background music.
- If you’re in a large group at a long table, sit towards the middle to have a better view of everyone.
- If you’re going during the day, try to sit outside where there will be less competition with the room’s acoustics.
- Change to a different listening program on your hearing aid if it is available, or use your phone app to focus the hearing aid microphones in the desired direction.
- Use a companion microphone that can be placed in the center of the table to pick up everyone’s voices.
Walking/hiking in nature
- Change to a different listening program on your hearing aid if it is available. Some hearing aids have listening programs specifically designed for the outdoors. Speak to your hearing health professional if you are unsure what would be the best program.
- Use your app to focus the microphones in the direction of the speaker if necessary(if available).
- Use a companion microphone to pick up additional sound.
- Ask the person to whom you are speaking to walk on the side of your better ear.
- Balance the awareness of your surroundings, path, and the person walking with you. Glance at your companion to assist with visual cues while talking.
- If you are walking at night, have a light source on you to see the path and your companions.
Going on a road trip
- Try to keep the windows closed to minimize the sounds of the car and road.
- Turn off the radio or music while people are speaking.
- Use your phone app to direct the hearing aids’ microphones in the direction of the speaker(if available).
- If you are driving and people are sitting at the back, attach your companion microphone to the lapel of the speaker.
- As a passenger, sit in front so you can turn around to see the people speaking behind you.
Watching a movie
- Check if the cinema you’re going to has a captioning system such as rear-window captioning, which displays the captions on a small device in the cupholder.
- If the cinema has an induction loop system, enable your hearing aids’ telecoil to receive a clearer sound.
- Change to a different listening program on your hearing aid if it is available. Some hearing aids have more dedicated programs for TV listening.
- Sit in the middle of the cinema so that you’re comfortable and can look directly at the screen.
Going to the theatre or a live show
- Sit in the middle or closer to the front to get as many visual cues as possible.
- Enable your telecoil if there is an induction loop system.
- If it’s a more intimate talk, such as a church service, you may be able to ask the speaker to keep your microphone accessory close to them so that the sound goes directly into your hearing aids.
At a party
- If there is background music, ask for it to be turned down, or sit as far from the speakers as possible.
- Speak to people in a quiet section of the venue that is well lit.
- Try to speak to just one or two people at a time.
- Use your app to adjust for noise reduction and microphone directionality (if available).