Let’s start with the obvious. It is easy to hear people, but it can be downright difficult to understand them. When you have a hearing loss, understanding all of the sounds you hear can be the hardest task, and all of the effort expended on understanding seriously undermines other good stuff, like remembering and, frankly, enjoying.
First, if you have hearing loss, get hearing aids. Excellent hearing aids from an excellent audiologist are half the battle and the only solid foundation on which to build a lifetime of better hearing.
Once your hearing aids are properly fit and tuned, you are ready to take on a little auditory training. As discussed in a previous post, there are very formal auditory training programs such as LACE. However, there is a lot you can do for yourself in the course of your own busy life that will help immensely. The most obvious aural rehab task is listening to books on tape, podcasts, or any other auditory-only speech. Start with something easy and pay close attention to areas where you are still missing information. Is it when the narrator speaks too quickly? Or maybe when they talk with an accent?
Don’t avoid difficult communication situations. That restaurant you stopped going to because it was so hard to hear there? Go back. But this time, go with someone you know well, ask for a seat away from the kitchen, put your back to the crowd, face your companion, and try again. The best athletes only get better when their training gets harder.
Finally, once you have listened to recorded materials for fun, try a few that require actual listening and thinking. Check out tapes and CDs that contain brain teasers, or nonfiction. Take adult learning classes that require classroom participation.
Start small and give yourself a few wins. Also, be sure to keep your audiologist informed so she can make any necessary changes to your hearing aid programming.