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Communicating is a Team Effort Involving My Ears, Eyes and Brain

Updated: 3 days ago

Sound Advice by Ruth D. Bernstein

 Toddler in a red beret eats strawberries while sitting in a high chair.
20-month-old Ryan, my great-granddaughter

One of the advantages of being a ninety-year-old great-grandmother is that I get to enjoy watching Ryan, my twenty-month-old great-granddaughter, acquire speech. She uses all her senses and her body, as she interacts with her loving parents, doting grandparents, great-grandparents and devoted caretaker. I marvel at how she integrates and processes everything she hears and sees going on around her and adds it to her growing vocabulary. Her favorite words right now are “Daddy” and “no.”

Speech, Hearing and the Brain

As a speech pathology student in the 1960s, I learned about speech, hearing and the brain, and thought I appreciated how the brain works. I had a client who had come to America when he was sixteen speaking German. He quickly learned to speak fluent English. A stroke at sixty erased English from his brain. He was left with German. That was when I understood how important our brains are to language development. As part of our training, speech pathology students studied audiology, including learning to give audiograms, which is how another student discovered I had a hearing loss! 

My journey as a person with hearing loss has been ongoing for more than fifty years. In August, 2019, I became bionic when I received a cochlear implant for my left ear. My brain learned to interpret the new way it was hearing sound and integrated that with the sound it was getting from my right hearing aid. Smart brain!

Tools for Better Hearing

I’ve taken advantage of CHC’s services since the 1980s and am an active volunteer. I counsel people new to hearing loss on how to cope because I want to share the support and good experiences I have had. 

One of the first things I tell them is their audiologist is a VIP in their lives. The audiologist should teach them how to take advantage of listening techniques and about all the different technology that can maximize the hearing they have. The audiologist may suggest speechreading classes, listening to books online, useful assistive listening devices like mics that bring sound closer to you, and help to keep you current on constantly evolving apps like Otter and Ava that transcribe conversations.

Smartphones have programs that transcribe conversations - Live Captions for Apple phones and Live Transcribe for Androids. InnoCaption transcribes phone calls with live operators or AI. You can learn about phones that transcribe conversations here

CHC audiologists discuss these technology solutions with their clients. If you find your audiologist doesn't bring them up, be an educated consumer and ask about any tips they might have to help you hear and communicate better.

For information about everyday coping techniques, ask about CHC's Hearing Aid Hacks classes and attend the Hearing Loss Association of America, New York City Chapter online meetings. Hear and Beyond is a well-written how-to book by Shari Eberts and Gael Hannan. The section “Mind Shifts: A New Approach to Hearing Loss" includes many useful ideas.

I encourage adults adjusting to new hearing aids or a cochlear implant to look into CHC's Aural Rehabilitation Program. It can help you get the most out of your amplification. For a limited time, CHC speech-language pathologists are offering a complimentary Comprehensive Functional Listening Evaluation. Learn more and request your free evaluation.

My Eyes Supplement What I Hear

I recently came across this quote by Gertrude Stein: “It is quite natural. Some hear more pleasantly with the eyes than with the ears.” I was reminded how much I use my eyes to supplement what I’m hearing. After discussing a movie we saw together, a friend said “I didn't see that." My answer: "I look for all possible clues when I'm watching a movie."

Dr. Lafargue, who was my CHC audiologist for almost forty years, described my hearing loss this way: “Ruth is an extraordinary communicator, using every cue available. It is easy to forget the profound nature of her loss.” In addition to visual clues, I use assistive listening devices like wireless mics with my hearing aid and cochlear implant and captions on my phone, computer and TV.

A Lot to Be Grateful For

I’m grateful my ears, eyes and brain are able to take advantage of the progress that has been made and continues to be made in hearing devices and other technology that keeps me communicating. I hope you take advantage of all the available opportunities to enhance your hearing, too. How fortunate we are to live at this time!

Ruth D. Bernstein Hearing Access Ambassador

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7 comentarios

Alex Timothy
Alex Timothy
6 days ago

That's right @quordle, each look is also a direction of speech and thought

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Edward Hooper
Edward Hooper
7 days ago

What a beautiful journey you've had with speech, hearing, and the brain, spanning generations, @tunnel rush!

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