The UK is home to 11 million individuals with hearing loss which is about one in six of us. However, there are many more who are undiagnosed and it might take them a while to admit they have it. People usually wait about 10 years on average before seeking help with their hearing loss. But it’s not just an issue with the person carrying the hearing loss – GPs routinely fail to refer 30-45% of those with hearing loss to NHS audiology services. This might explain why only 40% of those who need hearing aids are actually wearing them.
The 5 stages
When a person starts experiencing the effects of hearing loss, it can be a long process before they accept it and get it treated. A psychologist famously wrote in the 1960s about the five stages that terminally ill patients go through. In a strange twist, they are surprisingly adaptable to the experience of developing a hearing loss, too. Here’s how hearing loss sufferers could go through the same journey:
- Denial: Hearing loss occurs slowly and unevenly. The sufferer may believe their hearing is all right until they are called out by a friend or family member. Even if everyone around is telling them they are losing their hearing, it may still take a while to for them to agree.
- Anger: They may get upset at family members who continually ask them to decrease the television volume or demand that a hearing professional checks their hearing.
- Bargaining: Following the anger stage, they will enter the negotiating phase and find ways to feel normal with their hearing again. They might resolve to protect their hearing in certain situations, or decide that they will get hearing aids ‘only once it gets really bad’.
- Depression: When it becomes difficult and exhausting to participate in daily conversations with friends and loved ones, they may try to avoid those situations. They may start realising that they have lost something valuable, which causes anxiety and stress.
- Acceptance: This is the last stage, where they eventually accept that there is a problem that needs to be fixed. This is one of the toughest steps to achieve as a hearing loss individual. But anyone can confront these emotions and make it through this difficult journey.
Ways you can accept your hearing loss
If you are suffering from hearing loss, here is how you can accept your condition gracefully and productively.
Tell other people
Talk to friends and family. Let them understand what you’re experiencing and how it affects you. Adults who use a hearing aid will need loads of social time to learn to hear again, so it’s important to surround yourself with friends and family who understand your condition and are invested in helping you overcome it.
Make it easier for others to communicate with you
In order to handle your hearing loss, you must make it easier for others to handle your hearing loss too and successfully communicate. Here are some tips:
- Although hearing loss can be experienced by many, it has different guises so give your partner tips about how to best improve communication. Perhaps your left ear is better than your right ear, or you prefer to talk one-on-one.
- Let others know what you need, when you need it.
- Take steps to reduce background noise wherever you are.
- If you don’t know whether you understood correctly, summarise what you have heard to clarify.
- Look at the person you are talking to head-on. This will help with lip-reading.
Be realistic about treatment
It’s important to ask for professional help. They will do their best to get you hearing again, so that you can continue to live a fulfilling life.
But note that it can be four months for you to get the most out of your hearing aids. Patience is essential. Your brain is learning how to hear certain sounds again, particularly the higher frequency consonants you lost the ability to hear.
It is important to hang in there. A recent study shows that hearing aid use and enhanced quality of life are directly related. Most hearing aid users have experienced increased happiness, and say that hearing aids have enhanced their relationship with family and friends substantially and provided a stronger feeling of autonomy. Why should you miss these benefits?
House of Hearing
For those who are ready to accept their hearing loss, it’s still important to know the full extent of your hearing loss. We provide comprehensive hearing evaluations and hearing treatments at any one of our branches here in Scotland. Contact us to schedule an appointment.