It takes the average person with hearing loss 5 to 7 years before pursuing a qualified professional diagnosis, in spite of the reality that the signs and symptoms of hearing loss are apparent to others. But are those with hearing loss merely too stubborn to get help? No, actually, and for a handful of different reasons.

Perhaps you know someone with hearing loss who either denies the difficulties or refuses to seek professional help, and even though this is undoubtedly frustrating, it is very possible that the indications 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 develops so gradually over time that the impacted person simply doesn’t realize the change. While you would recognize an instant change from normal hearing to a 25 decibel hearing loss (specified as moderate hearing loss), you wouldn’t perceive the smaller change of a 1-2 decibel loss.

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

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

The majority of hearing loss instances are classified as high-frequency hearing loss, meaning that the affected individual can still hear low-frequency background sounds normally. Although speech, which is a high-frequency sound, is strenuous for those with hearing loss to understand, other sounds can usually be heard normally. This is why it’s typical for those with hearing loss to say, “my hearing is fine, everyone else mumbles.”

3. Hearing loss is not assessed by the family doctor

People suffering with hearing loss can attain a false sense of well-being after their yearly physical. It’s quite common 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 regularly screen for hearing loss during the course of the yearly checkup. Not to mention that the foremost symptom for the majority of cases of hearing loss — difficulty following speech in the presence of background noise — will not present itself in a calm office setting.

4. The burden of hearing loss can be shared or passed on to others

How do you remedy hearing loss when there’s no cure? The answer is straight forward: amplify sounds. The issue 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 promptly find out.

Those with hearing loss commonly crank up the volume on everything, to the detriment of those around them. Tv sets and radios are played extremely loud and people are made to either shout or repeat themselves. The person with hearing loss can manage just fine with this strategy, but only by transferring the burden to friends, family members, and colleagues.

5. Hearing loss is pain-free and invisible

Hearing loss is mainly subjective: it cannot be diagnosed by visible examination and it normally is not accompanied by any pain or discomfort. If those with hearing loss do not perceive a problem, mostly due to the reasons above, then they most likely won’t take action.

The only way to properly diagnose hearing loss is through audiometry, which will calculate the exact decibel level hearing loss at different sound frequencies. This is the only method to objectively determine whether hearing loss is present, but the challenging part is of course getting to that point.

How to approach those with hearing loss

Hopefully, this article has generated some empathy. It is always exasperating when someone with hearing loss refuses to recognize the problem, but remember, they may legitimately not comprehend the magnitude of the problem. Instead of demanding that they get their hearing examined, a more reliable approach may be to educate them on the components of hearing loss that make the condition essentially invisible.

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