What Tree Pose Teaches Us About Living With Hearing Loss

Tree pose requires both stability and ease, concentration and comfort, strength and flexibility. It is a posture of opposites that when skillfully combined, create balance. It teaches us to build a strong and stable foundation upon which we can grow. These are the same skills I use to manage living with a hearing loss every day, but especially during a pandemic. 

Communication with hearing loss is always challenging. Even with perfectly calibrated hearing devices, background noise, low talkers and bad sightlines can make conversation hard. Face masks, while critical for health and safety, add to the difficulties, since they eliminate our hearing loss superpower — speechreading.

Rather than retreat discouraged, we must find the right balance of strength and ease to take on these new challenges.

Strength Comes From Knowledge and Practice

Reflect on the communicate best practices you already know - As people with hearing loss, we use many best practice communication tips and tricks each and every day. We ask our conversation partners to speak clearly and at a normal pace. We ask them to face us and keep their mouths visible so we can utilize body language and lip movements to help us fill in the blanks that we miss. Review the strategies you already know and redouble your efforts to implement them when needed.

Expand your communication tool kit - As new communication challenges arise, commit to expanding your hearing loss toolbox. Ask your audiologist about adding a mask program to your hearing aids. Like with a restaurant or music program, you can turn on a mask program as needed. Mask programs boost the high frequency tones that are most muffled by masks.

Embrace new technologies - Necessity is the mother of invention, and the pandemic is no different. Download a speech-to-test app onto your phone and use it to caption your conversations in real time. My favorites are Otter.ai (iPhone and Android) and Live Transcribe (Android only), yet many others also exist.

Practice builds confidence - Try out your new skills/apps on your friends and family first to fine tune your process so you are better equipped to implement them in real-time as needed.

Ease Requires the Right Mindset

Be patient with yourself - Communicating with people wearing masks is going to be difficult. Acknowledge this to yourself upfront and you will be better prepared to meet the challenge. Set realistic expectations for communication success and remember to be flexible. If one communication tool is not working, try another. Forgive yourself if things don’t go according to plan.

Be kind - Even from behind a mask, a smile can be seen in the crinkle of your eyes and heard in the tone of your voice. Everyone is feeling the stress of recent events. When you ask for communication assistance with a pleasant demeanor, your requests are more likely to be honored.

Carve out time each day to be grateful - While times are challenging, we have much we can appreciate. I am grateful for my hearing aids, the support of friends and family and the rapid improvements in technology for people with hearing loss. Gratitude is linked to better mood and can be an important tool to find ease in trying times.

Living well with hearing loss requires knowledge, practice and a healthy attitude. When these elements come together, we can take on any difficult listening situation confident we have the necessary skills to meet the challenge.