Adults with Hearing Loss and Quality of Life: Does it matter where we live?

Andrew Neel

The Greek philosopher Heraclitus stated, “Change is the only constant in life.”  According to a U.S. Census Bureau report, Americans move about eleven times in his or her lifetime.  That means we must brace ourselves to adapt to a new environment over and over again in a typical lifespan.  Before considering a move, a person with hearing loss might want to consider how the change will affect his or her life. 

Here are some things to consider:

Medical Resources:  If you live in or near a major city, chances are you will have a lot of medical resources.  This one is particularly important to me because I like to select, not settle.  When you do choose a hearing health provider, you also want to be sure they are part of your medical coverage and have the experience and qualities you seek.   

How far must you travel to get to your preferred audiologist or cochlear implant center?  Is public transportation easily accessible if your car breaks down?  Need new tubing for your hearing aid?  Your hearing device is malfunctioning?  We have all been there.  While strides have been made in remote patient/clinic solutions for newer devices, at least for now, we must visit our hearing center from time to time, and if we can’t hear, we want to fix it fast!

Mobility:  Some individuals with hearing loss also have mobility issues.  If you have mobility issues, have you considered the multiple steps in your path to get to your new clinic?  This goes beyond required accommodations.  If a person in a wheelchair has just one hurdle, it can add time to their trip and maybe even make it a tremendous challenge. Persons with balance issues, canes or wheelchairs don’t want to worry about their path being inaccessible.

Connections:  Are there hearing loss support groups within a reasonable distance to your new home?  Are there clubs or volunteer groups close by?  Persons with hearing loss have to be mindful of not becoming isolated.  The consequences can be depression and even cognitive decline.  The connections and wealth of information are worth your time.

Entertainment:  Have the members of your community ensured hearing accessibility through their efforts?  I attend art classes at our local library, and thanks to the Westchester Chapter of the Hearing Loss Association of America (www.hearingloss.org), the room is looped.  I can hear announcements and participate like everyone else.  Likewise, the New York City Chapter of this organization has done tremendous advocacy work in ensuring theatres, museums, subway stations, and even taxis are looped or provide captions.  Organizations such as (TDF.org) have captioned performances and there is also the gala pro app for captioned Broadway shows.  Living so close to a major city is a real plus.  

Deaf Culture: Even if you may not be culturally Deaf, it is always fun to explore another culture.  I find diversity fascinating, and we learn a lot about ourselves and others in coming together in this way.  I attend American Sign Language chats even though my skills are limited. It’s a beautiful language with a rich history. Performances by the New York Deaf Theatre (www.newyorkdeaftheatre.com) is truly a treat.  

What are some things you look for in a hearing-friendly community?