It takes the average person with hearing loss 5 to 7 years before getting a qualified professional diagnosis, despite the fact that the signs and symptoms of hearing loss are transparent to others. But are those with hearing loss merely too stubborn to get help? No, actually, and for a couple of specific reasons.

Maybe you know someone with hearing loss who either denies the concern or declines to seek professional help, and even though this is without a doubt frustrating, it is very conceivable that the warning signs of hearing loss are much more obvious to you than they are to them.

Here are the reasons why:

1. Hearing loss is gradual

In the majority of scenarios, hearing loss takes place so gradually that the affected individual simply doesn’t notice the change. While you would notice an abrupt change from normal hearing to a 25 decibel hearing loss (specified as moderate hearing loss), you wouldn’t perceive the lesser 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 detectable at any given moment in time for those impacted. That’s why friends and family are almost always the first to observe hearing loss.

2. Hearing loss is often partial (high-frequency only)

The majority of hearing loss scenarios are categorized as high-frequency hearing loss, which means that the affected person can still hear low-frequency background sounds normally. While speech, which is a high-frequency sound, is strenuous for those with hearing loss to follow, other sounds can usually be heard normally. This is why it’s quite common for those with hearing loss to state, “my hearing is fine, everyone else mumbles.”

3. Hearing loss is not addressed by the family doctor

People suffering with hearing loss can attain a false 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 regularly screen for hearing loss during the course of the annual checkup. Not to mention that the foremost symptom for the majority of cases of hearing loss — difficulty 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 remedy hearing loss when there’s no cure? The solution is simple: amplify sounds. The issue is, although hearing aids are the most effective at amplifying sounds, they are not the only way to achieve it — which people with hearing loss quickly discover.

Those with hearing loss frequently crank up the volume on everything, to the detriment of those around them. TVs and radios are played extremely loud and people are made to either shout or repeat themselves. The individual with hearing loss can get by just fine with this approach, but only by transferring the burden to friends, family members, and co-workers.

5. Hearing loss is painless and invisible

Hearing loss is largely subjective: it cannot be diagnosed by visual examination and it normally is not accompanied by any pain or discomfort. If individuals with hearing loss do not perceive a problem, chiefly due to the reasons above, then they more than likely won’t take action.

The only way to appropriately diagnose hearing loss is through audiometry, which will determine the precise decibel level hearing loss at numerous sound frequencies. This is the only method to objectively determine whether hearing loss is present, but the hard part is of course getting to that point.

How to approach those with hearing loss

Hopefully, this entry has generated some empathy. It is always frustrating when someone with hearing loss refuses to admit the problem, but remember, they may legitimately not comprehend the severity of the problem. Rather than commanding that they get their hearing tested, a more productive method may be to educate them on the features of hearing loss that make the condition virtually invisible.

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