The average delay between the onset of hearing loss and seeking a professional diagnosis is five to seven years. One reason for this delay is not noticing the change in hearing in the early stages of acquired hearing loss. A more prevalent reason is failing to admit there is a problem or avoiding the problem. If you are in the denial stage, you may try to hide the loss because you perceive it as a sign of aging or carrying the stigma of a disability. You also may hide your hearing loss by not participating in conversations, by smiling when everyone else is doing so, and by bluffing in other ways. Denial is exacerbated by the fact that in some situations you can hear and in others you cannot, so you waver between acceptance and denial of the need for a hearing test. The hearing loss is often obvious to your family members and friends; however, if you are like most hard of hearing people, at first you may blame your problem on others.
It Doesn’t Hurt
Since hearing loss is usually free of physical pain, people who are hard of hearing tend to put off dealing with it, especially if they are also experiencing other physical problems such as arthritis and heart disease. Although physically painless, hearing loss can cause you emotional pain since it can make you feel socially inept, isolated, embarrassed, even depressed. Poor hearing disrupts communication and can lead to unhappiness. It also can cause pain for your family and friends who may become frustrated and angry when trying to communicate with you (see Chapter 4).
Getting Help: Make It a Priority
If listening situations are causing you to strain, tune out, or feel fatigued and irritable, it may be time to admit you have a hearing loss. If so, this is the time to see a hearing health care specialist to determine what the problem is. Some hearing losses may be medically or surgically correctable; most can be helped by wearing a hearing aid. Much information is available when you decide that doing something about your hearing loss is your top priority.
Maintaining good communication with your family and friends is vital to remaining happy, healthy, and in control of your life. It is especially important for older people. You owe it to yourself to have the best quality of life possible.