Hearing Loss After TBI

Question: 

My loved one has hearing loss due to a TBI. Are there any suggestions you have to help her feel more connected with family and friends?

Answer: 

Hearing loss can sometimes occur with TBI. This can be the result of damage to the tiny bones in the middle ear or a fracture of the inner ear or cochlea. Even if the hearing in the ear itself is not damaged, a person with TBI can have a loss in hearing that is caused by the way sound is processed in the brain.

Hearing problems can be very frustrating and isolating. If your loved one has not already done so, she should be seen by an audiologist for a complete hearing test. The results of the hearing test will help determine the most appropriate treatment. Treatment may include medical management, hearing aids, or auditory processing therapy. It's important to determine how much of the hearing loss is caused by other symptoms such as memory or attention difficulties, which may also accompany a TBI.

Here are some other suggestions to help make your loved one feel more connected to family and friends:

  • Turn down background noise such as the TV or music. Noise can make soft sounds harder for your loved one to hear and will make speech unclear and difficult to understand.
  • Have a conversation with only one or two people at a time, and sit or stand close when talking. Moving closer to your loved one will increase the volume of your voice and will make it easier for her to hear and understand what you are saying.
  • Get her attention before talking — tap her shoulder or place your hand on hers. Make sure you are facing her so that she can use your facial expressions and lip movements to help fill in any missing information.
  • Your loved one should ask her audiologist about assistive devices such as a frequency-modulated (FM) systems or a less expensive hardwired system. A wireless FM system would allow her to hear you from across the room as though you are speaking directly into her ear. Assistive devices increase the volume of the speaker voice, while decreasing the interfering background noise.

 

Posted on BrainLine February 18, 2009

Janet Brown

Janet Brown, MA, CCC-SLP spent twenty years in practice at the Veterans Administration Medical Center and at the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Washington, DC. She is the current director of Health Care Services at the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

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