How hearing problems concern all of us

Posted by Mary Marvella | 12:03 PM | 3 comments »

By Mary Marvella Barfield

Why should each of us be concerned about the hearing problems of others? Because we operate in a world with other people, and one day any of you could start losing your hearing.

It’s happened to me, and it often affects my interactions. You might know someone who hides a hearing problem or you might not be paying enough attention to notice. Some people aren’t aware they’re not hearing everything.

For example, I was walking with two people at a writers’ workshop. I was looking down while we talked. One of the people asked me to repeat what I said. After a while he caught my attention and said he hadn't heard much of what I was saying.

I thought I was the only person who didn't hear everything, and I looked up at him and said so. I had been talking to the ground instead of up toward the tall man with me. No wonder he didn't hear what I said.

The other person with us commented she hadn't heard half of what I said for the four years she had known me. I responded that she should have said something, because the half she missed was the good stuff.


1. If you can't hear someone, say so. As someone who talks to herself, I tend to mumble, though I deny it to certain people. People don't always hear me. We all have habits that may prevent others from understanding us, like chopping off the ends of our words. And as we grow older, our ability to hear clearly can diminish. Our friends grow older, too, and they often need help. Do everyone a favor by being kindly honest.

2. Don't walk away while speaking to someone. Try to face the person to whom you're speaking. If you don’t, some of us will lose parts of what you say. Get a hearing aid? Hearing aids can do just so much. They can raise volume, but there are limits and the gadgets don't help all hearing problems. They cure nothing. Since they aren’t cure-alls, many hearing aid owners discard them. If you have a friend or family member who needs a hearing aid, learn as much as you can to help this person adjust and get the most from it.

3. If you ask a question that isn’t answered correctly, restate it. Some of us answer the question we thought you asked instead of the one you did ask. When that happens, let us know and make sure we're looking at you when you speak.


People who tell jokes or funny stories often lower their voices or look down when they get to the punch-line or the funny stuff. If you look down or drop your voice, some members of your audience won’t get the point, probably more than you realize.

When a speaker reads a speech, he might lower the pitch of his voice and/or the volume. Readers tend to speak into their chests or the podium, speed up their pace unconsciously, and trail off with their voices as they read.

Hearing and understanding speakers involves both volume and enunciation, and often involves being able to see the speaker's face. Many people lip-read to a small degree before they realize they have minor hearing loss


1. Don't wave away the microphone because you feel you speak loudly enough.
2. Face your audience when speaking instead of fellow panel members.
3. Pull the microphone close enough to hear your voice amplified.
4. Enunciate clearly and make yourself slow down.
5. Make your presentation without reading it or read as little as possible.
6. Don't let your hands or anything else hide your mouth when you speak.
7. To project better, stand when you speak.
8. If you have question and answer time, please repeat the question or make it clear in your answer.


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  1. Mona Risk // October 11, 2007 at 7:15 PM  


    How brave of you to candidly talk about ths problem. I had hearing difficulty since I was 10 after a doctor gave me a medicine that affected the 7th cranial, nerve, the hearing nerve. I did my best to hide it all my life.


  2. Mary Marvella // October 12, 2007 at 1:55 AM  

    Don't try to hide the problem, Mona. Embrace it. (Maybe that's going a little far!)

    It goes beyond what we don't hear and the things we hear that aren't there. I've answered the phone when it wasn't ringing.

    My loss has been progressive. Mama had to wear 2 hearing aids and I'm heading there.

    Until I reached my 50's I could hear an ant fart two rooms away. I taught in high school and my students thought I had eyes in the back of my head and super hearing.

    No longer true.

    It's easier to admit and explain so people can help me. It makes them feel good. It also lets others admit their problems.

    It allows me to tune out folks and blame it on the dead battery.



  3. Nightingale // October 12, 2007 at 9:33 AM  

    Good advice, Mary