It happened again. You were on a video call with your friends. Somehow the topic changed from sports to grandkids and you didn’t keep up. You said something about your favorite baseball team and everyone kind of paused awkwardly.
Because this isn’t the first time it’s happened. You know (not all that deep down, even) that it’s your ears. But you haven’t been able to muster up the energy or the will to see the hearing specialist. Why is that?
Why Aren’t You Getting Help for Your Hearing Loss?
Most people wait an average of seven years before they finally go see a hearing specialist and get some help for their hearing loss. That’s… a long time. And your ears can incur a significant amount of unnecessary damage during those years. So what’s keeping people from making an appointment? There are a few possibilities:
You found some workarounds: Because hearing loss develops so slowly (usually), you have plenty of time to compensate (both physiologically and mentally). You might learn to read lips or steer conversations to quieter areas. And those coping strategies might make finding a pair of hearing aids feel less urgent, delaying your treatment.
You’re afraid of stigma: There’s definitely some social stigma around hearing loss and hearing aids–though it has gotten better over the years, especially as hearing aids have become smaller. Still, you might hesitate to be labeled with that stigma; ultimately this is kind of self-defeating. Hearing aids can help you communicate more effectively and make connections with people.
You just haven’t noticed: In some cases, your hearing loss worsens so gradually, so subtly, that you don’t even notice it’s happening. Sure, you might raise the volume on your television every once in a while. But you tell yourself it doesn’t mean anything. The deterioration is so slow that you don’t immediately notice it, resulting in a significant delay before seeking treatment.
You can still hear (mostly): There are some people who have the mistaken impression that you shouldn’t seek treatment for hearing loss until you can no longer hear. This is, well, not a great strategy. The sooner you see a hearing specialist, the better you’ll be able to preserve the hearing you have left. So, waiting until you can’t hear anything is going to severely limit your treatment options.
COVID-19: There’s absolutely no doubt that COVID-19 has changed the way that we interact with each other and with the wider world. Many people have been avoiding elective medical procedures and screenings (even when those procedures have been available) because they have been self-isolating. However, hearing specialists have gone to great lengths to ensure that appointments will be safe. You can now call your hearing specialist to check on their availability. Some will even offer video consultations and online testing.
Out of sight, out of mind: Because hearing loss isn’t something you–and those around you–can see, it’s incredibly easy to ignore, dismiss, or deny. When you can’t bend your fingers without pain, you go see a doctor quickly; and every one of your friends and family encourage you to do so. That discomfort is visible. Invisible disabilities, such as hearing loss, are easier to ignore because they aren’t as obvious to the people around you. You can pretend you heard the joke or simply come off as aloof.
The Sooner You Treat Hearing Loss, the Better
Hearing loss is a long-term, chronic condition. Usually, your hearing will deteriorate as time goes on (a relationship that’s more correlation than causation, but that’s another conversation), especially if you aren’t proactive about your treatment. The fact that you missed a vital bit of a conversation during a Zoom call is not that troubling–the fact that it happens more and more often is.
The sooner you make an appointment with your hearing specialist, the better you’ll be able to determine how far your hearing loss has progressed and what treatment options you have. Treating your hearing loss isn’t the last step once your hearing is gone–it’s the first step in preserving the hearing you have left.