Dale Johnson: Sitting down with Dr. Sandra Miller from Complete Hearing it is The Conversation Starts Here. Every Saturday morning we’re here talking about your hearing wellbeing, to use an awkward term. We just came off the Superbowl a week ago.
Dr. Miller: We did.
Dale Johnson: And ahead of us is Valentine’s day. You couldn’t think of a more juxtaposition dynamic, the loudness of a Superbowl party and the quiet intimacy of a Valentine’s day night out.
Dr. Miller: Right. If you think about that, those are two very different environments where you’re thinking, how would I prepare for that if I want to have communication with someone and they’re completely different. But I think we could overlap a couple of things in terms of, if I want to be able to communicate and be a good listener in those environments, what would be the best option for me?
Dr. Miller: We can talk about the crowd first because I think about when Superbowl parties we’re cheering, and we’re loud, and we have food in our mouths, and we can’t see each other talking, and that’s a challenge. So I think when we talk about just those environments where you know you’re going to be challenged, because for me, if I think about going out to dinner at eight o’clock on a Friday night, I’m preparing myself to go, where am I going to sit? How many people are going to be at my table? What restaurant are we going to? Because this is what people think about a lot of times, especially if they’re like, I’m not going to go because I’m not going to hear or understand.
Dr. Miller: So my husband always says to me, Sandra, you have gotten so old. And I say, what are you talking about? And he says, you want to go to dinner at five o’clock and I say, that’s because if I’m going to pay 50, 100 dollars for dinner, I want to be able to have nice conversation and enjoy it without being struggling in hearing.
Dr. Miller: And so a lot of times when I talk to my patients about strategies of being a good listener in those environments, I give some strategies just to be, if you’re going to be able to listen and hear well in those environments, you have to be strategic. And I would tell you go to dinner earlier. I’m just a big fan of that in general, but I want you to think about is that one thing people don’t realize in any environment, especially when it comes to hearing aids, that the noise should always be behind the person if they’re wearing a hearing device.
Dr. Miller: And so if you and I today went out to lunch, my first option would be I want to sit in a high back booth because then we’re enclosed in that little space, right. If that’s not an option, you have to sit over here. Okay, great. Then I would want, if I was the hearing aid wearer, I would put your back up against the wall because that way when you’re talking to me, there’s nothing behind you, your voice is just coming at me, and as the hearing aid wearer the noise behind me should be getting reduced. And so the hearing aid in a noisy environment wants to hear what’s in front of me.
Dr. Miller: So when you go to a restaurant you have to be very strategic about where do I sit. High back booth, away from the kitchen, away from the cash register, away from the traffic if you possibly can be. And I encourage your listeners to be assertive with this, you don’t have to sit where they put you. And so I very much like, if you’re going to struggle or it’s going to be a challenge to you, be okay with the fact that “Could we please sit over here?” I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, especially if it’s going to be to your benefit.
Dale Johnson: Had you asked me where would the hearing aid wearer sit, back to the wall or in the open room, I would’ve said back to the wall. Only because my voice then wouldn’t have any interference behind you. See this is why you’re the doctor.
Dr. Miller: Right. I saw my patients … Because it’s so opposite of the way you think it should be. But if you think about how a hearing aid works, if I’m looking at you and there’s nothing behind you, it’s just your voice coming at me, the hearing aid goes, oh, I can filter through that pretty easily because I’m going to try to reduce what’s behind me, which is all the noise.
Dr. Miller: Now imagine if it’s the opposite. When you’re looking at me and you’re sitting up against the wall with your hearing it on and you’re looking at me and all the crowd noises behind me, how does the hearing aid figure out even what to listen to, because typically in a noisy environment like a restaurant, the background noise is speech. There is conversation going on. There’s a bunch of [inaudible 00:04:07], and the hearing is going, I don’t even, what should I do with this?
Dr. Miller: So we tell our patients, hey, this is where you should sit when you go there because it will … And if you’re having a struggle, get up and move if you can. If you can dictate where you’re going to sit, that’s one of the most valuable things you can do in terms of, I’m going to be able to hear and listen better if I can get into this other position.
Dale Johnson: So be assertive.
Dr. Miller: Be assertive.
Dale Johnson: Control your environment.
Dr. Miller: Control your environment.
Dale Johnson: Because the conversation then becomes more enjoyable and therefore your evening is more enjoyable.
Dr. Miller: Yeah, and imagine that we … Going back to, we talked about Superbowl and it can be in that environment or it can be now we’re getting into a dinner situation, is that the closer you are to the speaker, the better you’re going to hear. So my patients often say to me, well, Dr. Miller, I can hear the people beside me, but we were with eight people and I couldn’t hear the three, four, and the other one at the other end. And my comment typically is, I don’t know that I would have either.
Dr. Miller: And so what’s realistic in that environment? And so when you talk about strategically where do I want to sit, we’re going to dinner with 10 of our friends tonight, I think I’m going to talk to Susie, Joe and Bill most, try to orientate yourself to those people. Because if Bill’s sitting at the other end of the table and that’s who you want to talk to, that’s going to be a huge challenge. Sometimes I tell my patients, if you want to talk to everybody at that table, try to get in the middle of the table.
Dr. Miller: Yeah, so it is honestly thinking about those things and not be afraid to be assertive with yourself. Would you mind if I sat in this chair tonight? I’ll be able to hear better if I can sit here. I would go with that, just moving closer to the speaker or who those you’re going to be engaging with most. We talked about putting the noise behind you. Hey, when you go out to eat or you have social events, Superbowl, you’re at dinner with your loved one, the phone needs to be off the table or away.
Dr. Miller: We were talking earlier about that silly commercial that’s out there now with the … It’s a car commercial and everybody in the whole entire commercial is on the phone. So the people walking on the street, whatever the people are doing in that commercial, everybody’s on their phone. And so they’re driving in their car and it’s warning them of danger, hey, the driver behind you isn’t paying attention, beep beep beep beep. That person in the crosswalk shouldn’t be crossing, but they are, beep beep beep beep. So I watched that commercial thinking, oh it’s about the car’s safety, but it’s also about the people on the street that aren’t even being engaged with what’s going on around them.
Dr. Miller: So if you want to have great conversation and be a good listener and be a good communicator, it’s just we have to get rid of the distractions, especially on Valentine’s day.
Dale Johnson: Bring the phone but either turn it off or lock it in the console in your car.
Dr. Miller: Exactly.
Dale Johnson: Creates for better conversation.
Dr. Miller: Exactly. And the reason I tell you about the whole going to dinner at five o’clock, well obviously the restaurant isn’t as busy at five o’clock. And if you know there’s a certain place you love to go and you know there’s a quieter part of that place, don’t be afraid to just ask that as well. Could we sit over in that corner there? Sometimes I tell the hostess, I know the section might not be open, but just tell the server I’ll make it worth her time to come over and take care of us.
Dale Johnson: My wife and I have made mental lists of the eating establishments that have booths, and we will purposely ask for, to make reservations, ask for a booth. There are restaurants now that it’s almost enclosed. It’s not a booth that’s high that you can see over, it actually is a closet almost in a very attractive way, and you’re waited on in a private setting and that reduces noise significantly.
Dr. Miller: Exactly. The other thing I’ve started to do, and I don’t know if your listeners do this or not, when the waiter comes up to the table and it’s really noisy and they’re trying to tell you the specials and what the soup is and what the … And how challenging that can be sometimes, I’m a big fan of getting online and looking at the menu before I go. So I’m a little bit more at ease in that environment and I’m not feeling like I have to just struggle to figure out, okay though I’m going to be the last one to order and I’m not sure what I’m going to order and I couldn’t hear the specials, did you hear the specials?
Dr. Miller: And so that challenge of that … Or call ahead before you go so you don’t have to feel frustrated by the fact of they came up and told the specials and I had no idea what they said. Call ahead and say what are your soups today and what are the specials tonight? And then you don’t have to feel awkward, the fact that you couldn’t hear anything at that … And then you have to ask everybody at the table, did you catch that.
Dr. Miller: It’s just a way to prepare yourself and you can do that in many environments. Going to the movies, read the plot before you go. Find out … What I love about our theaters in Lincoln now is that you can just to reserve your seat, right, so you can go and you could reserve these nice … And so you can sit in a place where you feel you’d probably would hear pretty well.
Dr. Miller: So you just have to be strategic, I think when it to, I want to listen well and I want to hear well, how am I going to prepare myself for that?
Dale Johnson: All of these examples are setting yourself up for success. A little advanced work, as opposed to those of us who have average or better hearing. Mine’s a little questionable.
Dr. Miller: I told you need to come in and see me.
Dale Johnson: And I’m going to take you up on that.
Dr. Miller: I think one day we should just actually … Oh, too bad we can’t do a remote broadcast from the office and-
Dale Johnson: We can just mic both of us up and go through the process of a hearing test.
Dr. Miller: I know. I think it’d be really great for the listeners actually for your listeners just to say, I went through this process and this is what it was like. I think it’s really interesting when we tell our patients this is a really good idea to do, they typically … It’s kind of like when you go to your doctor and he tells you to do stuff that you won’t do or you don’t do just because. I always tell my patients we have a lot of fun in our office and we don’t give any ouchies. So that just means it’s simple and it’s fun and it’s educational. That’s what our goal is.
Dr. Miller: Our goal is simply to educate you and that you have this piece of your health information that you can take with you, that you will know exactly where you are and you know what the risks are and are you at risk and what does that mean. And I know there’s many of the things out there in terms of medical problems you could have, but hearing loss is one of the things that you … Hearing just you use every single day and the vitality of your hearing is so important.
Dale Johnson: And we take it for granted. It’s been there from the minute we’re born and we’ve developed it and honed it and use it every single day from the minute we wake up until the minute we fall asleep we are hearing.
Dr. Miller: Yeah. I love what you said when I came in today where you said, I watch people walk. Talk about that.
Dale Johnson: Yes. For those of you who don’t know, I lost my leg in a motorcycle crash, left leg, four years ago and so I have since then watched people walk, and the ease of mobility, and then relate it back to me and how much work … I tell this to groups, when you got up this morning, the very last thing you ever thought of, if you thought of it at all, is to walk, to the bathroom, to the kitchen, to your car. When I get up, the very first thing I think of is walking. There’s the difference in dynamic and how we take things for granted. Hearing would be the same way.
Dr. Miller: I do have some patients who ask me if they are hearing impaired enough where they’re concerned about safety. Hey, can I sleep in my hearing aids? And I always say, well there’s really no reason you cannot. It’s not a bad idea to give your ears a break at the end of the day. But if it’s a safety concern for you that you’re afraid you’re not going to hear something, I sometimes … We tell you not to wear them at the end of the day, put them away because your ears need a break and when you sleep on them, they’re not very comfortable. But I have some patients who do wear them through the night, just for safety purposes. They feel, I just feel more comfortable if something’s going on in the house that I’d be able to hear it.
Dale Johnson: Or a simple alarm.
Dr. Miller: Exactly.
Dale Johnson: I need to get up at a certain time, my job depends on it, I need to hear that alarm, so I’ll keep my hearing aids in.
Dale Johnson: You can get your questions answered, you can get a lot of good advice just by going to complete-hearing.com. Listen to this conversation again, listen to other conversations at Complete Hearing in Lincoln. And listen to us every Saturday morning with Dr. Sandra Miller on The Conversation Starts Here.