Why Do We Underestimate Hearing Loss?
People wait a long time to get fitted with hearing aids. I’m a good example of this, having hearing loss since birth (we guess) but waiting until my 38th year to do so, after figuring out “something was up” with my hearing when I was 13 or so.
In his article about baby boomers and hearing aids, Steve points to an article in Hearing Review which mentions an average of 7 years waiting in the US between identifying hearing loss and actually getting hearing aids. The article is Right Product; Wrong Message, and you should read it. It’s about how we can try and change the social norm in hearing care, how hearing loss is perceived, etc.
Anyway. I waited, and it seems I’m not alone.
One thing I realised when I got fitted is that I had underestimated how much hearing loss I had. Various conversations I’ve had since then with audiologists at Phonak and other people with hearing loss have led me to believe that this is quite common.
You cannot hear what you cannot hear.
When you lose your eyesight, you still see everything, but it’s blurry.
When you lose your hearing, the sounds you don’t hear just cease to exist. You don’t know you don’t hear them anymore. You can’t “hear” that you didn’t hear the doorbell. You can’t “hear” that you didn’t hear somebody talking to you when you had your back turned.
Another way in which eyes and ears are different.
When hearing degrades, or just wasn’t there in first place, you rely on other people to inform you that they tried speaking to you and you didn’t hear them. Or that they’re not mumbling, they talk like this with “everyone” and only you are making them repeat every second sentence.
We shape our lives around our capacity for hearing. My preference for quiet places and one-on-one situations is not a coïncidence. These are the social situations in which my hearing doesn’t prevent me from communicating and enjoying myself. When I got fitted, one of the things I noticed is that almost all my friends were loud speakers. Funny, eh? Sometimes I think of all the soft-spoken people I never got to know because I simply couldn’t understand them, or maybe didn’t even hear them try to talk to me.
I personally think that one of the major reasons why people wait to get hearing aids, setting economic reasons aside, is that they are not aware of the benefits hearing aids could bring in their lives, because they don’t realise what they’re missing out on because of their hearing loss.