Now Hear This





Update:  October, 2008.  Since this page was prepared, I have had cochlear implant surgery.  If you would like to know about my "CI Journey," you can find more here:  News.

Pictures of the components can be seen below.  Click Here.

Do you have difficulty understanding what you hear?  You hear the voice, but you can't make out the words?

Do you have a family member or friend who has this problem?

Then this page is for you, and for them; and rest assured that you have lots of company!. 

Since one-fourth of the population is affected by this disability by the time they reach retirement, it is a very "noticeable" problem.  Being hearing impaired myself makes me keenly aware of all the difficulties that the hearing impaired face.  I have accumulated a little information through the years that might be of interest to you and will share it here.  As more information becomes available, I will update this page, so come back if you need to be informed.

One of the best articles that I have read on helping the hearing impaired was published in "SHHH" (Self Help of Hard of Hearing People) November/December 1986 Journal.  While the date might make the information seem to be "old news," it really isn't.  It's actually right up to date.  I would like to begin this feature on our web site with that article.

* Personal note:  "Don't talk to my ear!"  People instinctively want to get close to your ear to help you hear them, but much of what a hearing impaired person hears is the result of watching your lips form the words.  Talk in a normal voice, mouthing each word and you will make a great difference in what the hearing impaired understand of your speech.

  Will You Help Me Hear You?  

By Max K. Kennedy

"SHHH" Journal, Nov/Dec 1986 Issue


Hearing loss is the most prevalent serious disability in the United States today.  Approximately one out of every thirteen people has a hearing disability.  It affects two out of 100 children, and about four in 100 young adults.  But by middle ages the incidence has been to one in ten, and by the time of retirement nearly one in four is affected.


There are two very closely related consequences of hearing loss which greatly affect the hearing impaired person.  First is the reaction by the hearing impaired person to gradually withdraw from contact with other people.  When I first read about this reaction, I analyzed my own behavior, and, to my surprise, I found that I was doing just that.  The strange thing to me was that it was not the result of a conscious decision on my part.  Up until that time I had been unaware of this behavior.  I began to make an effort to change this pattern in my life.  It has been a difficult goal to accomplish.


After some observation and study I became aware of the natural tendency of others to avoid those who have difficulty hearing.  I can best explain by giving you an example from my actual experience.  Let’s assume I am in an informal gathering with a group of people at someone’s home.  I am not very well acquainted with most of them, but they all know I am hard of hearing.  When they first meet me they shake my hand and exchange a typical greeting.  Then they quickly leave to talk with someone else.  None of them will try to carry on a conversation with me.  If I stand by myself they will leave me alone.  It is rare for anyone to join me.  Why do others react in this manner?  Are they somewhat unaware of their reaction as I was about my withdrawal?  I don’t know the answer to this question but I do know every hearing impaired individual has similar experiences.


A hearing impairment seems to be the most difficult disability for others to accept and deal with because people are generally very sensitive to others who have any kind of a physical handicap.  No one wants to say or do anything which would further hurt or embarrass them.  Additionally, the inability to hear cuts the channel of verbal communication which is necessary for most human relationships.  Usually you initially cope with a handicapped individual by ignoring the disability.  For example, if you meet an individual in a wheelchair it is fairly easy not to pay any direct attention to the wheelchair.  In addition, with most handicapped people, many of the things you can do to help them are obvious.


A hearing person is faced with three problems when meeting someone who has a hearing disability.  First, this handicap is invisible…there is no prior warning of the condition.  Second, because of its disruptive effect on the communication, this disability cannot be ignored.  One if immediately faced with the problem of how to communicate with the individual.  Third, with the possible exception of raising the voice level, which usually doesn’t help much, there are no obvious actions which can be taken which will help.  I believe these problems are to some degree the reason why others avoid the hearing impaired person.


Now consider what can be done to change these reactions.  I have developed these recommendations over a number of years from my personal experience as a hearing impaired person.  It is important to realize that a hearing aid will not help everyone, and an aid doesn’t completely restore a person’s hearing to normal.  Virtually all hearing impaired people, whether they use a hearing aid or not, depend to some degree upon speech reading.  Therefore, these recommendations will help in the communication s process with anyone who is hearing impaired, and in many instances, even with those who have normal hearing.  Here are some of the things you can do, along with me, to help me hear you.

First, I have found it helps to let others know I am hard of hearing.  This seems to somewhat lessen the uncertainty others have about me.  In this way, hopefully, you will not be so concerned about hurting my feelings.  You will also feel free to discuss my handicap with me sooner than you normally would.  Such a discussion helps both of us to understand and accept hearing impairment.  I now recognize and accept my handicap and it helps us both if you know that.  It is important to realize this is a difficult action for most hearing impaired individuals to initially take.


Second, please recognize that I must be able to see your face, preferably straight on and in reasonably good light to be able to understand you.  Don’t stand or sit with your back to a window.  The glare will make it impossible for me to see you clearly.  Always try to face me when you talk, even when others are present.  Remember the others can hear you, but I must see you!  From my own experience I know that is very hard to remember and do because we miss the nonverbal feedback from others in the group.  It takes a deliberate effort to face only one individual in a group.  Please keep your hands away from your face.  You would be surprised how many people cover some part of their face with their gestures when they talk.  Also, such actions as chewing gum or holding anything between your lips when you talk makes it more difficult for me to understand you.


Third, you may try to talk to me and get no response.  I am not stuck up or ignoring you, I just didn’t hear you.  This is especially true if you approached me from the rear or the side.  I am probably completely unaware you said anything.  It may be necessary for you to touch me to get my attention.  You’ll find, once I am looking at you, I’ll probably be able to understand you.  In a classroom I try to sit close enough to the front to see the instructor clearly.  This means I don’t understand any comments made by those seated behind me.  As a result I may make a remark which essentially repeats what someone just said.  In addition, you may find I talk either too softly or too loudly.  This is because it is extremely difficult for me to judge the loudness of my own voice.  You will not embarrass me by calling such actions to my attention, but this will help me communicate with you.


Fourth, speak clearly and distinctly, without exaggerating your normal lip or other facial movements.  Speaking a little slower will sometimes be very helpful.  Don’t raise your voice because that will also distort your lip movements.  It doesn’t help anyway, at least in my case.  If I can’t understand you by reading your lips, you can’t shout loud enough for me hear you anyway.


Fifth, please understand that it is hard to follow conversation by speech reading.  It isn’t as easy as the movies would lead you to believe.  Here are a few of the things which make it difficult.  Some sounds, which are formed in the throat, can’t be seen; and hence give no visible clues.  Some words look the same on the lips and the correct word has to be selected from the context of what was said.  A good example are the words “phone,” and “vote.”  Look at yourself in a mirror and say them.  Even sounds which have very distinct movements when said alone are usually altered when combined with others at normal conversation speed.  Finally, many groups of individual sounds have identical patterns on the lips.  Consider words which begin “M,” “P,” or “B.”  If you look in the mirror when you say them you will note your lips come together identically for all three of them.  Again, I must rely on context to select the right one.  In order to speech read, I have to pay very close attention to the visual clues and concentrate on what is being said.


Sixth, while I depend on speech reading, I do hear some sounds.  What I can hear helps me overcome some of the speech reading problems.  For this reason, it is more difficult for me when there is a lot of background noise such as music or a group of people talking.  In fact, background noise which you may not notice will greatly affect me; example, a fan in a heat duct.  I very much appreciate it when someone turns off a TV, record player, or does something else which will reduce the noise level.  I also recognize it is not always possible to reduce the background noise level, for example at a party or large gathering.


Seventh, as a speech reader, I am at my best in a one-on-one conversation.  I may be able to keep up with two people, but beyond that point, it rapidly becomes impossible.  I just can’t turn my head fast enough to keep up with what is being said.  I avoid large groups of people for this reason.


Eighth, it helps if you let me know when you change the subject, otherwise it may take me a while to get tuned in again.  This is because I have to depend a great deal upon context in order to understand.  A good way to do this is to use the expression, “New subject,” before you begin talking about a new topic.  This alerts me to the change, and I won’t spend time trying to fit context with something that doesn’t match.  Time is critical if I am to be able to keep up with our conversation.


Ninth, if you say something I just don’t understand, it usually doesn’t help to repeat it exactly the same way more than once.  The best way is to rephrase it.  Usually if you just restate a few key words, I will be able to pick up the meaning.


Tenth, names of places and people are very difficult for me to understand.  It is impossible to associate them with context.  In addition, many of them have a preferred pronunciation and I am unable to hear it.  Sometimes I must see a name written in order to understand it.  The best way to help me understand the pronunciation of a name is to use another common word it rhymes with to illustrate it.


These ten suggestions will help.  I have many friends and business associates who use them, and we are able to communicate with each other with very little difficulty.  I hope hearing persons will try to apply them with family member and friends who are hard of hearing.  Some of these suggestions are very different from what normally hearing persons usually do.  We have to remember to apply them.  This is particularly difficult when a hearing person only occasionally comes in contact with someone who is hard of hearing.  A deliberate effort is required.  As with most things, the more they are applied, the easier they become.  Discuss this article with someone who is hearing impaired.  It may help in determining what special things a hearing person can do to help a hearing impaired person communicate more effectively.


Finally, please remember—my understanding begins with your understanding.

A personal note:  I find it very useful to always carry a pen and a notepad small enough to fit in my pocket or purse.  If you have trouble understanding what someone is trying to tell you, ask them to write down a few key words; and you can usually put the pieces together with their notes......Delores


Bits of Information

ADA:  Americans With Disabilities Act

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 Public Law 101-336 prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability.

Canine Companions for Independence

"Exceptional Dogs for Exceptional People"

There are many assistance dog programs.  Additional programs can be found at these sites:

Companion dogs go through a training program with their master and can be taught to obey commands such as: 

Retrieve--pick up dropped item, etc.

Tug--to pull back on a rope to open or close a door or tug a basket

Push--strike a door or drawer with their paw to close them

Light--turn on a light switch

Pull--pull a manual chair

Commands such as sit, down, stay, etc.

Provide companionship.

For more information, contact Canine Companions; National Office; PO Box 446; Santa Rosa, CA 95402-0446; 707-577-1700

Products to help the hearing impaired are many.  I have found some useful items online at NFSS Communication.  Their web store address is  Their mailing address is NFSS Communications-ILL, Inc.; PO Box 230; Lake Villa, IL 60046-0230; Phone 888-589-6670.

Last Resort

Then there is the "bionic ear."  Those with severe loss have a possible alternative--surgical implants.  AARP reports that they are "steadily improving."  The options are:

BAHAs: Bone-anchored hearing aids for those with single-sided deafness

Middle ear implants:  For people with mild to moderate hearing loss

Cochlear Implants:  For severe hearing loss. ** See Mine

AARP reports that the U of Iowa is testing a "more precisely placed version."

There are "Relay Services" to and from hearing impaired and deaf persons.  I only have the phone for Kentucky, but you can probably find other states' number on the internet.  If I learn where they are available, I will include that information here.  You can get more information at their web site here:

Kentucky Relay Service:  800-648-6057

You can call a person who is deaf, hard of hearing, or speech-impaired by using the Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS). With TRS, a special operator types whatever you say so that the person you are calling can read your words on his or her TTY display (see below for TTY information).  He or she will type back a response, which the TRS operator will read aloud for you to hear over the phone. Toll free TRS services are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

And, of course, there is American Sign Language.  It's a beautiful language, and it is just that--a language.  It is like learning a foreign language.  There are computer learning programs with manuals and visual helps that display the hand actions and expressions.

U of Michigan has a great web site that lists words alphabetically and a "quick time" movie" with an actual person making the signs.  The link to the Sign Language Browser can be found here:

Using the telephone is a nearly impossibility for the hearing impaired, but there is help with TTY (Text Telephone) or TTD (Telecommunication Device for the Deaf).  I found the following at this web site:

"TTY stands for Text Telephone. It is also sometimes called a TDD, or Telecommunication Device for the Deaf. TTY is the more widely accepted term, however, as TTYs are used by many people, not just people who are deaf.

"A TTY is a special device that lets people who are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech-impaired use the telephone to communicate, by allowing them to type messages back and forth to one another instead of talking and listening. A TTY is required at both ends of the conversation in order to communicate."

See Hearing Part 2 for more information


 My Cochlear Implant

Surgery July 7, 2008, Activation August 15, 2008

After many years of being severely hard of hearing, then profoundly deaf, I underwent cochlear implant surgery at Providence Hospital in Detroit.  My surgeon was Dr. Michael LaRouere of Michigan Ear Institute.  A 'report' of my surgery and progress can be found at my Family News Page.

Below are pictures of the device.




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 If you have information to share that would be helpful to others regarding hearing impairment, please send me an  email and we will consider including it in this section.







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