It takes the average person with hearing loss 5 to 7 years before getting a professional diagnosis, irrespective of the fact that the warning signs of hearing loss are obvious to others. But are those with hearing loss merely too stubborn to get help? No, actually, and for a couple of different reasons.
Perhaps you know someone with hearing loss who either denies the condition or declines to seek out professional help, and although this is undoubtedly frustrating, it is very likely that the signs and symptoms of hearing loss are much more conspicuous to you than they are to them.
Here are the reasons why:
1. Hearing loss is gradual
In most scenarios, hearing loss appears so gradually over time that the afflicted person simply doesn’t experience the change. While you would become aware of an instantaneous change from normal hearing to a 25 decibel hearing loss (classified 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 10-20 years, while producing a 20-40 total decibel loss, is not going to be perceptible at any given moment in time for those impacted. That’s why friends and family are almost always the first to recognize hearing loss.
2. Hearing loss is often partial (high-frequency only)
The majority of hearing loss cases are categorized as high-frequency hearing loss, which means that the afflicted individual can still hear low-frequency background sounds normally. Although speech, which is a high-frequency sound, is challenging for those with hearing loss to comprehend, other sounds can usually be heard normally. This is why it’s quite common for those with hearing loss to claim, “my hearing is fine, everyone else mumbles.”
3. Hearing loss is not assessed by the family doctor
Individuals suffering with hearing loss can get a mistaken sense of well-being after their annual physical. It’s typical to hear people state “if I had hearing loss, my doctor would have told me.”
This is of course not true because only 14% of physicians routinely test for hearing loss during the yearly checkup. Not to mention that the foremost 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 manage hearing loss when there’s no cure? The solution is straight forward: amplify sounds. The problem is, even though hearing aids are the most effective at amplifying sounds, they are not the only way to accomplish it — which individuals with hearing loss promptly identify.
Those with hearing loss regularly 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 shout 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 visible assessment and it generally is not accompanied by any pain or discomfort. If individuals with hearing loss do not perceive a problem, chiefly because of the reasons above, then they more than likely won’t take action.
The only method to appropriately diagnose hearing loss is through audiometry, which will quantify the specific decibel level hearing loss at various sound frequencies. This is the only method to objectively say whether hearing loss is present, but the hard part is needless to say getting to that point.
How to approach those with hearing loss
Hopefully, this article has established some empathy. It is always frustrating when someone with hearing loss refuses to acknowledge the problem, but remember, they may legitimately not grasp the extent of the problem. Rather than commanding that they get their hearing tested, a more effective strategy may be to educate them on the attributes of hearing loss that make the condition essentially invisible.