Can You Hear Me Now?

The headline's significant question is more than a pun on the marketing campaign trademark slogan implemented by an American multinational telecommunications conglomerate. It is a critical concern among the hard-of-hearing population and with people who interact with them.

Sunday Morning Forum guest speaker Kathi Mestayer is no stranger to hearing challenges and this field of study. Identifying herself and a number of family members as hard of hearing, Kathi led the class in a discussion entitled: "Say What? How Hearing Loss Affects Us, and Those Around Us."

Functional hearing loss ranges from mild to profound. "There has been an increased incidence of hearing loss among young people, and noise-induced audiological injury is the number one cause of hearing loss among veterans," illustrated Kathi through her statistical review.

Kathi Mestayer is a hearing-loss freelance writer and activist. She serves on the Advisory Board of Virginia’s Department for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, is a staff writer for the Hearing Health Foundation, and a technology trainer for the Hearing Loss Association of America’s and Gallaudet’s joint program. Kathi is a member of the Williamsburg Unitarian Universalists congregation. (Click to enlarge.)

Gradual and/or mild hearing loss can sometimes go unnoticed, since people may adapt to the change. But this is not always the case. Inability to hear can affect the quality of our work, our relationships and our day to day lives.

James Battey, director of the National Institute for Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (under the umbrella of the National Institutes of Health) states: "We do not [yet] have the equivalent of eyeglasses for hearing loss."

Despite hearing aids' incapacity to offer a sensory improvement commensurate to that of eyeglasses for vision, our Forum facilitator elaborated how each of us can be supportive of people with hearing challenges. These measures include attention to volume, quiet, clarity, visibility, no sudden noises and patience.

Kathi spoke further about advocacy within the medical community, citing the importance of including hearing screenings with annual physicals. She continues to join other activists in educational efforts to remove obstacles (e.g., expense and vanity!) regarding obtaining and using hearing aids and other assistive listening devices.

There may be times in life where the proverbial saying, "Silence Is Golden," is applicable, but the sound of silence can be deafening in the lives of hard-of-hearing people. Let's do our part in ensuring that the communication lines between all of us have a sound and respectful connection!

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