“I’m not deaf. You are mumbling and at the party the other day there was too much background noise. I could hear just as well as anyone else.” “No I’m not deaf. If you look at me when you talk and don’t walk away I can hear you quite clearly.” Age-related deafness is gradual, often slow and at first not even noticed. Family, friends and work colleagues are usually the first to notice a difference.
For the person who is losing their hearing, denial is the first response. In fact most people deny their hearing loss for on average 6 years before even considering getting their hearing checked. So why do people deny their hearing loss when often the solution is simple, when a hearing aid would help them communicate so much better and make their lives easier.
The first reason is, because loss is gradual, we don’t recognise it is happening. Environmental noises fade so slowly we don’t even know they are missing. In groups we unconsciously compensate by placing ourselves in the best position to take part. When we use the phone we automatically hold the receiver to our best ear without realising we are doing it. Back in 1980 I was at work and had a long phone call. My ear got hot and sore so I swapped the receiver to my other ear – only to hear nothing. At first I thought my caller had hung up, but I swapped the receiver back to my right ear and they were still there talking away. I repeated this a couple of times and that day realised I had lost total hearing in my left ear. It seems I had favoured my right ear and hadn’t even noticed that my left ear had stopped listening. It was only after this incident that I sought hearing help for the first time and received my first hearing aid.
The second reason is because we don’t want to admit we have a problem. Hearing loss is equated with aging and we are not getting old. We have also heard stories from friends and relatives about how hearing aids just simply don’t help so we figure why bother.
I am often asked how family members can get someone to admit they have a hearing loss. Sadly, if a person is not ready to accept they have a hearing loss, they are not ready to seek help. As long as someone will not admit he or she has a problem there is nothing anyone can do which will change the situation. In fact ‘nagging’ is likely to have the opposite effect – they’ll dig in their heels and denial becomes even stronger.
Life is too short to live it hard. Deafness is a lonely place and in this day of technological advances there is no reason to live with even a profound hearing loss. There are a number of books, places, groups or internet forums which cover the feelings associated with an early, progressive hearing loss. While not definitive, if you suspect you or someone close to you has a hearing loss and you have access to the internet, take an on-line hearing check. Or if you don’t have access to the internet then take a telephone hearing check. See if you really do have a loss. If it seems you do, then get a professional to check it.
Take it from someone who knows! If you have even a mild hearing loss, protect your hearing by getting and wearing a hearing aid. Just like other muscles and nerves in your body if your hearing nerve is not stimulated, then your hearing could deteriorate faster. Hearing aids these days are smart, sophisticated and discrete. They provide maximum amplification and can be programmed to your particular hearing loss giving you the best possible benefit. You’ll be surprised at how much clearer your world sounds and how many environmental sounds you have been missing.