What We Know and Do Not Know About Hearing Loss
Many aspects of hearing loss remain a mystery, however common we know it to be. This makes sense because every person is a unique individual, shaped by their unique circumstances and experiences, so every person’s experience with hearing loss is unique to them as well. In fact, how common is hearing loss exactly? A high percentage of those who experience it do not even know that they are doing so.
This may seem shocking, but here is what we know for sure. Hearing loss refers to a wide range of conditions, from complete deafness to muddled hearing of certain frequencies in specific contexts. Between 35 and 48 million Americans live with some detectable degree of hearing loss. This represents almost 14% of everyone in the U.S. aged 18 and older, including 1/3 of everyone over the age of 65 and more than half of everyone aged 75 years old and older.
And of these large numbers, only a very small fraction, about one out of every five people suffering from it, take appropriate action.
We Depend on Others
Hearing loss usually comes on so gradually that it is impossible to even recognize what is happening. Considering that, it should be no surprise that people fail to seek meaningful treatment. Without a shocking moment of recognition of their condition, there is no singular moment that compels a response. So they are likely to deny it or minimize it. Most likely they know that they are suddenly needing to be more intentional with their sense of balance and spatial orientation than ever before. And they are more easily fatigued and disoriented, but can’t say why.
Oftentimes the intervention of a loved one is required. They may point out that they have puzzled together the symptoms: you’ve been watching the TV extra loud or you’re not hearing them when your back is turned. And when it is made conscious, it is important to take immediate action because we do know for sure that the consequences of failing to treat hearing loss with the seriousness that it deserves comes with tremendous social, emotional, and psychological consequences.
Your Disclosure Method Matters
How will you choose to inform others about your hearing loss? The manner you choose to do so will guide how they behave toward you in response, and this establishes the habits of how you will cooperate to communicate. These are the three primary strategies of disclosure.
Non-disclosure means you just don’t tell people. You hide it. You can do this by using common phrases like “I can’t hear you” or “please speak up.”
If you choose to do this, obviously others will have no motive to adapt their behaviors to help accommodate you.
Basic disclosure means letting people know that you have some degree of hearing impairment and would benefit from some form of accommodations when communicating. It does not go so far as to let those around you know how exactly to be most helpful. This type of disclosure is beneficial though not as thorough as multipurpose disclosure
Multipurpose disclosure means telling people about your hearing loss and recommending strategies that are helpful for you to communicate. For example, you might say, “I don’t hear as well out of my left ear. Please walk on my right.”
Multi-purpose disclosure is far and away the most impactful way to navigate this potentially awkward but necessary transition. Simple recommendations guide others in how to meaningfully accommodate you. People who choose multipurpose disclosure find that others are more helpful and supportive and it simplifies everything for everyone. The multipurpose disclosure approach will boost your confidence and improve your communication. It is empowering.
Take Action Today
Just like a healthy diet, regular exercise and proper rest, your hearing health is a foundation of your health and overall quality of life. If you suspect that you yourself or someone you care about may be suffering from hearing loss, there is nothing to be ashamed of or scared about. Make an appointment with one of our trained professionals today to determine the treatment plan that suits your unique requirements and your budget.
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