If you get a cold, ‘flu or even a more serious disease such as diabetes or cancer, you manage it appropriately. In some cases you’ll head for the pharmacy or seek professional advice to manage the symptoms and control the outcomes.
Yet notoriously, those of us who fear we have a hearing loss most often take a very long time to do anything about it before we seek professional so we can better manage the symptoms.
Like most diseases, the longer you delay in getting treatment for hearing loss the harder it is to treat. Sadly, fewer than one in five people (in Australia) actually get a hearing aid.
So what should you do? The first thing is to determine what hearing stage you are in. You can’t determine this accurately for yourself and should seek professional assessment. However, there are four stages which are loosely characterised by:
Mild Hearing loss
You will experience some difficulty in understanding speech when there is background noise. When you watch television you may find the volume ok, but the speech is not always clear. Many people with a mild hearing loss will find it more difficult to understand higher pitched voices, those of children and women.
Moderate Hearing loss
Once you reach this stage you will avoid situations where there is background noise and your family will complain you have the television too loud. By now not only high pitched voices are difficult to understand but also the lower male voices. You may only hear some environmental sounds.
In addition you’ll probably find that one ear hears better than the other and you‘ll position yourself on the best side when with friends, at the table or in meetings. Your friends and family may help you by repeating what is being said.
Severe Hearing loss
With a severe hearing loss you will excuse yourself from large gatherings, you’ll have trouble hearing on the phone and television is almost too hard. You’ve given up listening to the radio and music because it just becomes noise that is annoying. Often the bass or deep sounds overpower any tune making it very unpleasant. You’ll only understand speech well when you are watching someone’s face and when you are concentrating on one person alone. Meetings, conferences and social groups are boring, because you just cannot understand what is going on. Most environmental sounds are no longer heard and it becomes too hard for friends, family or colleagues to continually keep you up to date with what is going on. You may notice symptoms of depression and you’ll almost always feel tired.
Profound Hearing loss
Once you get to this stage you have little or no effective hearing. Your world is silent (except often accompanied with the discordant chorus of tinnitus). You are probably experiencing a sense of isolation and have withdrawn from socialising. Depression could well have set in. Just getting through the day is exhausting because you waste all your energy and spend all your time trying to understand and be alert to what is going on around you.
Understanding the stage of hearing loss you have reached helps you to work out the best solutions to manage your hearing loss.