“Perceived need*” is the main reason for the
slow uptake of hearing aids for some people.
*The perception that hearing loss is not severe enough
Why? – because people adjust
Gradually over time, the person with the hearing loss adjusts to not being able to hear, and the people around them change by speaking louder and directly to them. Eventually, as communication as it gets too hard, friends and family start choosing to share less. They stop telling jokes or sharing inconsequential news and discuss only significant matters.
Hearing loss is “invisible”. It is also sneaky…
Hearing loss is usually gradual: first, you have to concentrate harder to follow the conversation in a cafe, next socialising becomes tiring from all the extra effort you need to use to understand the banter; soon you mis-hear the directions and find yourself asking for repeats.
Eventually, people take one of two paths:
- To withdraw into your own world, keep to yourself or stop going out
- to become the life of the party because while you are talking, it doesn’t matter if you cannot hear… right?
What brought you to this page?
- Have you noticed that you have been missing the details more often?
- Are you struggling to follow along in a group conversation?
- Or – have other people suggested that you don’t always hear them?
Hearing loss affects people of all ages. There are many reasons for hearing loss including hereditary factors, noise exposure, trauma and ear pathology. Hearing loss does become more common as we age due.
Hearing loss is invisible
Hearing loss is painless
Hearing loss is gradual
Hearing loss is sneaky
In the beginning, the hearing loss takes away…
- The beginning of the sentence,
- The little details,
- The Punchline…
With time hearing loss may…
- … increase mental fatigue – as you concentrate harder just to follow along- leaving you feeling exhausted at the end of the day
- … begin to erode your confidence – as you are no longer sure about what was said
- … cause you to ask for repeats – when you miss the first word
- … lead you to feel embarrassed about missing the details or about having to ask for repeats too often
- … make you feel less interested in socialising, choosing to stay home as it is easier that way.
The gradual nature of hearing loss means that we adapt over time. We change our behaviour, we choose our environments, and slowly our relationships change as everyone adapts to the change in our hearing.
Hearing loss is invisible and sneaky.
As it changes, we adjust.
Gradually it affects personality and relationships.
Hearing loss changes us over time.
Effects of hearing loss on you
Having hearing loss does not usually mean that you stop hearing all sounds equally; the hearing loss pattern will depend on the cause of the hearing loss. In many cases, hearing loss begins in the high pitches leaving the hearing for low tones in the normal range. Words will start to sound dull or become less clear, resulting in a reduced understanding of speech, especially in difficult listening situations. For example, in a group of people, hearing while the TV or radio are on in the background or trying to understand conversation in a large echoey room. Although for some types of hearing loss (conductive) people hear well in noisy environments, where people are speaking loudly but cannot understand quiet speech.
The way you respond to reducing hearing clarity will depend on your personality, the degree and shape of your hearing loss and how long your hearing has been deteriorating. Most people with hearing loss find it tiring to follow the conversation, as their brain has to work harder to fill in all the sound gaps that they miss –
“…now was that See or Tea? Must be Tea – that makes more sense.”
This is called auditory fatigue.
Often people find the tiredness from auditory fatigue gets worse at the end of the day. It can be harder to keep up with fast conversation, especially in a group or if people are facing away.
Many people tell me that they have felt embarrassed by their hearing loss at some point, either because they have misunderstood someone or they felt embarrassed asking for repeats. Some people find it easier to step back from the intense concentration they need to use to stay in the conversation and slip into their own thoughts. Others will talk more, as when you are talking you do not need to hear. Unfortunately, both of these options lead to a change in relationships over time.
Impact of Hearing Loss
Hearing loss impact varies between individuals and is influenced by many factors including degree and cause of hearing disorders, length of untreated hearing loss and personality. We know hearing disorders leads to social isolation, personality change and in some people increases the chance of anxiety and depression. Studies have also found a strong link between hearing disorders and the development of dementia. This US article outlines the effects of untreated hearing disorder in adults.
It takes up to 10 years to seek help with hearing loss
So why do we wait to do something about Hearing disorders?
- Hearing loss is invisible
- Hearing loss is gradual
- People are great at adapting to their situation and change in hearing
- Family members help to compensate
- There is a history of stigma around hearing aids
- There is a history of poor technology in hearing aids
- We “just get on with it…”
- Change is hard! … and takes motivation
- We don’t understand what is involved in getting and using hearing aids…
Do you think you may have hearing loss?
Are you ready to take the first step?
The first step is to have a full hearing assessment. This will assess your hearing level as well as pinpoint where in the ear the hearing loss originates. Hearing loss may be described as:
- Conductive – where there is a blockage stopping the sound from reaching the cochlear (outer or middle ear)
- Sensorineural – where the cochlear is not able to detect all the sounds
- Retrocochlear – where sound cannot be processed by the brain due to a blockage along the hearing pathway.
- An auditory processing disorder (APD) – where the brain cannot process the sound it detects.
The discussion after the hearing assessment will give you knowledge and understanding about your hearing and how it affects your life at the moment. If you are ready and interested, we will talk to you about the options we have for helping you with your hearing and what is involved. We will discuss the hearing aid funding options available for you. We will even fit you with some hearing aids, and you can go next door to the cafe for a cup of coffee while you try them out. From here, it is up to you to decide your next step.
Hearing aids are the most common and effective way to help people with hearing loss (after excluding medical reasons). However, before trialling hearing aids, it is important that you are ready in yourself, to go through the hearing aid process. It must be your decision, not someone else’s…
So… what was it that brought you to this page?
I hope this article helped you gain a greater understanding of hearing loss and its effects. Maybe the subject could be rephrased. Rather than the question being “Do I need hearing aids?”
Perhaps, the question could be “Would I like to communicate easily with the people that matter to me?”
Well… “Do you need hearing aids?” Do you want to be part of the conversation?
Hearing loss is common. Many people wear hearing aids. Have you noticed them? Click here for more…
A bit about Auckland Hearing
Auckland Hearing is an independent hearing aid and audiology clinic set up by Maree O’Sullivan. Maree
has worked in Audiology for nearly 25 years and started Auckland Hearing so she could focus on the needs of each client (rather than corporate profits).