Bill Schafer 2016-05-14 01:29:04
Recognizing Hearing Loss Helps Membership For 28 years I’ve lived with hearing loss. It’s a disability that’s not immediately apparent. Nine years ago (I remember it like it was yesterday) the members of my Mesa East Lions Club in Arizona carried on at our meeting—and I could barely hear them. I asked a question. A Lion shot me a puzzled look and said, “We discussed that 10 minutes ago. Where were you?” Since then I have made it my mission to save others from the embarrassment and lack of connection and understanding that accompany hearing loss. I speak at club meetings about hearing loss. Believe me, it has made a difference. Recently, a Lion in Arizona stood up at the end of the meeting and said this was the first time anyone had expressed concern about his hearing loss. He had been thinking of quitting, but now he had decided to remain a Lion. Don’t assume hearing loss is an isolated matter. An estimated 30 percent of adults suffer hearing problems. Only one in four of those with hearing loss benefit from a hearing aid or cochlear implant. Think of all the Lions we likely are losing because they feel left out and disenfranchised. Hearing is something we take for granted. I know that personally—to my regret. In the 1970s, as the general manager of a 15,000-acre farm, I regularly flew a plane to inspect the crops. I was young and strong. Advised to use ear plugs, I declined. In the 1980s I ran a 3,000-acre corn operation in Kansas whose sprinklers were pumped by large, noisy natural gas engines. The ear muffs given to me to protect my hearing lay untouched on a shelf at home. An autoimmune disease worsened my hearing, and I gratefully received a cochlear implant nearly a decade ago. My crisis led me to advocacy. I served on the Arizona Commission of the Deaf & Hard of Hearing and also gladly served as Multiple District 21 hearing chair. Accommodating the hard of hearing at meetings is not difficult. The president and the other members should speak more slowly and distinctly. Slow, concise speech can be learned and become habit-forming. Use the “4 P’s”— persistent, patient practice with a positive attitude. Emphasize each key word in a sentence with a slight pause after that key word. Then take a breath at the end of a sentence. An example: “We—were looking—for a—white— truck—to buy.” During a brief pause, the brain is able to fill in the missing sounds that it did not understand. Also, a hand-held microphone should be positioned at the chin at all times. For every foot of distance from the chin, six decibels of volume is lost. Unfortunately, Lions sometimes do not appreciate the scope of hearing loss. Audiologists, who can attest to the value of hearing aids and cochlear implants, also infrequently are invited to meetings. It’s time we pay much more attention to this largely hidden disability, both as a courtesy and as a tool for membership growth. Schafer has been a Lion since 1988.
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