“HONEY, YOU KNOW I CAN’T HEAR YOU WHEN THE WATER IS RUNNING”

After the identification of a hearing impairment aural rehabilitation is part of the process whereby appropriate therapies are implemented. Aural rehab is designed to help people adjust to their hearing loss and maximize their potential with hearing aids. Strategies include a thorough , discussion of the many assistive devices available to further maximize hearing potential, and to investigate diverse approaches that allow one to take greater charge of his/her communications needs. Aural rehab can be conducted in groups or on an individualized basis, and should be considered to be a routine part of visits with your audiologist. Your audiologist will assist you by helping to define and reach realistic hearing goals, and by providing listening strategies that are specific to your various listening environments.
To those who have experienced hearing loss it may not be surprising to learn that the effects of hearing loss on one’s social relationships can be very significant. These important “psychosocial” aspects of hearing loss have been well documented and are classified in terms of the emotional, cognitive, interpersonal, behavioral and physical reactions related to hearing loss. Individuals with hearing loss often experience stress, anxiety, loss of sleep, fatigue, and even shame as a result of the stigma of hearing loss. Because of these strong emotional ties to hearing loss, people often have feelings of isolation, loss of identity and will be likely to avoid social situations in which they have to “bluff” their way through conversations.
Research has also shed light on the significant psychosocial impacts of living with an individual with hearing impairment. Often the spouse acts as an interpreter for the individual with hearing loss, repeating parts of conversations and clarifying miscommunications. With the added burden of listening and repeating, the spouse is also likely to experience stress, fatigue and even embarrassment with regard to the hearing loss. As the individual with hearing loss begins to avoid social situations, spouses also experience a corresponding reduction in their social life and as a result can also experience less satisfaction in the marriage.
When looking at success with aural rehabilitation programs, researchers focus on the improvement in the social and emotional aspects of life for both the person with hearing loss and their significant other. When investigating these quality of life issues the person with hearing loss is asked to rate their quality of life with hearing loss, and likewise the significant other is asked to rate the quality of life of the person with hearing loss. Often there is a discrepancy between the two scores, with the spouse giving a much lower quality of life rating than the person with the hearing loss. Successful aural rehab programs are not only able to realize a reduction in the discrepancies between these scores, but an improvement in the couple’s overall satisfaction with their marriage as well as an improvement in the perceived benefit from the hearing aids by the person with hearing loss.
Aural rehabilitation is not a one time thing; it is an on-going learning process whereby the individual puts into daily practice the use of both visual and listening skills to improve their ability to communicate with others. By keeping your audiologist informed about your communication problems you can ensure that you receive strategies and tips that are specific to your needs. Furthermore, involving family members and friends in this process helps them better understand the issues you are encountering and also helps to reduce stress, frustration, and communication breakdowns for all parties involved.

References:
Better Hearing Institute: Aural Education and Counseling
Audiologic Rehabilitation with Adults & Significant Others: Is it really worth it? 2009, Jill E. Preminger

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