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5 Reasons Why People Deny Hearing Loss

It takes the average person with hearing loss 5 to 7 years before seeking a qualified professional diagnosis, notwithstanding the fact that the warning signs of hearing loss are very clear to others. But are those with hearing loss merely 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 issue or refuses to seek out professional help, and while this is unquestioningly frustrating, it is very likely that the indicators of hearing loss are much more clear to you than they are to them.

Here are the reasons why:

1. Hearing loss is gradual

In the majority of instances, hearing loss appears so slowly and gradually that the affected person simply doesn’t realize the change. While you would detect an swift change from normal hearing to a 25 decibel hearing loss (recognized as moderate hearing loss), you wouldn’t perceive the minor change of a 1-2 decibel loss.

So a gradual loss of 1-2 decibels over the course of 10-20 years, while resulting in a 20-40 total decibel loss, is not going to be noticeable at any given moment in time for those impacted. That’s why friends and family are nearly always the first to notice hearing loss.

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

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

3. Hearing loss is not assessed by the family doctor

Individuals suffering with hearing loss can obtain a mistaken sense of well-being following their yearly physical. It’s typical 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 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 — trouble understanding 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 address hearing loss when there’s no cure? The answer 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 people with hearing loss rapidly find out.

Those with hearing loss commonly turn up the volume on everything, to the detriment of those around them. Tv sets and radios are played exceedingly loud and people are made to either shout or repeat themselves. The individual with hearing loss can manage just fine with this strategy, but only by passing on the burden to friends, family members, and co-workers.

5. Hearing loss is pain-free and invisible

Hearing loss is mostly subjective: it cannot be diagnosed by visual assessment and it usually is not accompanied by any pain or discomfort. If those with hearing loss do not perceive a problem, mostly because of the reasons above, then they probably won’t take action.

The only way to accurately diagnose hearing loss is through audiometry, which will quantify the specific decibel level hearing loss at multiple sound frequencies. This is the only way 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 exasperating when someone with hearing loss refuses to accept the problem, but remember, they may legitimately not fully grasp the severity of the problem. Rather than demanding that they get their hearing tested, a more productive strategy may be to educate them on the properties of hearing loss that make the condition practically invisible.