It takes the average person with hearing loss 5 to 7 years before seeking a qualified professional diagnosis, irrespective of the reality that the signs and symptoms of hearing loss are very clear to others. But are those with hearing loss simply too stubborn to get help? No, actually, and for a few different reasons.
Maybe you know someone with hearing loss who either denies the concern or declines to seek out professional help, and while this is undoubtedly frustrating, it is very conceivable that the indicators of hearing loss are much more apparent to you than they are to them.
Here are the reasons why:
1. Hearing loss is gradual
In the majority of occurrences, hearing loss comes about so gradually over time that the affected individual simply doesn’t detect the change. While you would become aware of an immediate change from normal hearing to a 25 decibel hearing loss (specified as moderate hearing loss), you wouldn’t notice the minuscule change of a 1-2 decibel loss.
So a gradual loss of 1-2 decibels over the course of 10-20 years, while causing a 20-40 total decibel loss, is not going to be perceptible at any given moment in time for those afflicted. That’s why friends and family are nearly always the first to observe hearing loss.
2. Hearing loss is often partial (high-frequency only)
The majority of hearing loss examples are categorized as high-frequency hearing loss, indicating that the impacted person can still hear low-frequency background sounds normally. Even though speech, which is a high-frequency sound, is difficult for those with hearing loss to understand, other sounds can usually be heard normally. This is why it’s not uncommon for those with hearing loss to state, “my hearing is fine, everyone else mumbles.”
3. Hearing loss is not attended to by the family doctor
Individuals suffering with hearing loss can obtain a false sense of well-being following their yearly physical. It’s quite common to hear people say “if I had hearing loss, my doctor would have told me.”
This is of course not true because only 14% of physicians consistently screen for hearing loss during the annual checkup. Not to mention that the prime symptom for most cases of hearing loss — trouble comprehending speech in the presence of background noise — will not present itself in a calm office atmosphere.
4. The burden of hearing loss can be shared or passed on to others
How do you remedy hearing loss when there’s no cure? The solution is simple: amplify sounds. The issue is, while hearing aids are the most effective at amplifying sounds, they are not the only way to achieve it — which individuals with hearing loss promptly identify.
Those with hearing loss oftentimes turn up the volume on everything, to the detriment of those around them. Tv sets and radios are played excessively loud and people are made to either scream or repeat themselves. The individual with hearing loss can manage just fine with this technique, but only by transferring the burden to friends, family members, and colleagues.
5. Hearing loss is painless and invisible
Hearing loss is mostly subjective: it cannot be diagnosed by visual investigation and it usually is not accompanied by any pain or discomfort. If people with hearing loss do not perceive a problem, mainly because of the reasons above, then they probably won’t take action.
The only way to properly diagnose hearing loss is through audiometry, which will measure the precise decibel level hearing loss at numerous sound frequencies. This is the only way to objectively determine whether hearing loss is present, but the difficult part is needless to say getting to that point.
How to approach those with hearing loss
Hopefully, this entry has created some empathy. It is always exasperating when someone with hearing loss refuses to acknowledge the problem, but remember, they may legitimately not grasp the magnitude of the problem. Rather than demanding that they get their hearing tested, a more reliable strategy may be to educate them on the characteristics of hearing loss that make the condition essentially invisible.