It takes the average person with hearing loss 5 to 7 years before pursuing a qualified professional diagnosis, notwithstanding the reality that the signs and symptoms of hearing loss are clear to others. But are those with hearing loss just too stubborn to get help? No, actually, and for a couple of specific reasons.
Perhaps you know someone with hearing loss who either denies the condition or declines to seek professional help, and although this is undoubtedly frustrating, it is very conceivable that the indications 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 most scenarios, hearing loss develops so gradually over time that the affected individual simply doesn’t experience the change. While you would become aware of an instantaneous change from normal hearing to a 25 decibel hearing loss (characterized as moderate hearing loss), you wouldn’t detect the minuscule change of a 1-2 decibel loss.
So a gradual loss of 1-2 decibels over 10-20 years, while creating a 20-40 total decibel loss, is not going to be noticeable at any given moment in time for those afflicted. That’s why friends and family members are virtually always the first to detect hearing loss.
2. Hearing loss is often partial (high-frequency only)
The majority of hearing loss scenarios are classified 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 commonplace for those with hearing loss to assert, “my hearing is fine, everyone else mumbles.”
3. Hearing loss is not addressed by the family doctor
People struggling with hearing loss can obtain a mistaken sense of well-being following their annual physical. It’s quite common 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 consistently screen for hearing loss during the yearly checkup. Not to mention that the prime symptom for the majority of cases of hearing loss — trouble following speech in the presence of background noise — will not present itself in a tranquil office setting.
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, although hearing aids are the most effective at amplifying sounds, they are not the only way to achieve it — which those with hearing loss rapidly 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 exceptionally loud and people are made to either shout or repeat themselves. The individual with hearing loss can get by just fine with this method, but only by passing on the burden to friends, family members, and colleagues.
5. Hearing loss is pain-free and invisible
Hearing loss is mainly subjective: it cannot be diagnosed by visible evaluation and it generally is not accompanied by any pain or discomfort. If individuals with hearing loss do not perceive a problem, mostly because of the reasons above, then they likely won’t take action.
The only method to correctly diagnose hearing loss is through audiometry, which will quantify the specific decibel level hearing loss at several sound frequencies. This is the only way to objectively determine 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 created some empathy. It is always exasperating when someone with hearing loss refuses to recognize the problem, but remember, they may legitimately not fully grasp the severity of the problem. Instead of commanding that they get their hearing examined, a more productive method may be to educate them on the attributes of hearing loss that make the condition virtually invisible.