There is only so much that hearing aids can do to improve your ability to hear. The rest is up to you. You can use a number of tactics to improve your hearing in difficult listening environments. They require analyzing the situation and taking steps to create a more listening-friendly environment.

  • Reduce background noise. Have loud music and TVs turned down if they are competing with people for your attention. At restaurants, request a quiet table. At a friend’s house, suggest that the conversation be moved into another room if kids are playing games nearby. At the office, move away from the air-conditioning unit when you need to have a conversation.
  • Find a good spot. Position yourself in rooms to minimize the distance between yourself and the speaker. In groups, seat yourself in the center where you can see and hear everyone. In large group listening situations, show up early so you can choose a good position in the room.
  • Turn on the lights. If you can, make sure rooms where you will be listening are well-lit. In poorly lighted rooms, find a bright area and ask your speaker to stand there.
  • Plan ahead. If you know you will be in a particularly difficult listening environment, take steps beforehand to make sure you won’t be wasting your time by showing up. Call ahead and talk to someone who knows the environment. Are there quiet tables? Is front-row seating available? Will a light be shining on the speaker? In large group listening situations (such as places of worship and concert halls), call ahead to see if assistive listening devices will be available. These devices transmit sound to a special receiver that you wear, reducing the loss of clarity that occurs when sound travels through the air.
  • Speak up. Don’t be afraid to politely but firmly assert your needs. Call out from the audience for the speaker to speak into the microphone. If the audience is asking unamplified questions, ask the speaker to repeat them before answering. In restaurants where the music is too loud, ask your waitperson to turn the volume down. If necessary, ask people to face you head-on when they speak to you. They will appreciate your candor, and your hearing will benefit tremendously.