It takes the average person with hearing loss 5 to 7 years before getting a qualified professional diagnosis, in spite of the fact that the warning signs of hearing loss are crystal clear to other people. 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 refuses to seek out professional help, and although this is unquestioningly frustrating, it is very likely 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 appears so slowly and gradually that the afflicted individual simply doesn’t detect the change. While you would become aware of an rapid change from normal hearing to a 25 decibel hearing loss (classified as moderate hearing loss), you wouldn’t notice the minor change of a 1-2 decibel loss.
So a slow 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 affected. That’s why friends and family members are nearly always the first to notice hearing loss.
2. Hearing loss is often partial (high-frequency only)
The majority of hearing loss cases are categorized as high-frequency hearing loss, meaning that the afflicted individual can still hear low-frequency background sounds normally. Whereas speech, which is a high-frequency sound, is challenging 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 claim, “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 after their annual physical. It’s 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 routinely test for hearing loss during the course of the yearly checkup. Not to mention that the primary symptom for most cases of hearing loss — difficulty following 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 answer is straight forward: amplify sounds. The issue is, while hearing aids are the most effective at amplifying sounds, they are not the only way to accomplish it — which those with hearing loss quickly identify.
Those with hearing loss commonly 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 person with hearing loss can get by just fine with this method, but only by passing on the burden to friends, family members, and co-workers.
5. Hearing loss is painless and invisible
Hearing loss is mainly subjective: it cannot be diagnosed by visible evaluation and it usually is not accompanied by any pain or discomfort. If people with hearing loss do not recognize a problem, largely because of the reasons above, then they probably won’t take action.
The only method to accurately diagnose hearing loss is through audiometry, which will quantify the specific decibel level hearing loss at numerous sound frequencies. This is the only method to objectively say 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 article has manufactured some empathy. It is always exasperating when someone with hearing loss refuses to admit the problem, but remember, they may legitimately not grasp the severity of the problem. Rather than demanding that they get their hearing examined, a more productive strategy may be to educate them on the properties of hearing loss that make the condition essentially invisible.