What are some of the common denials people with hearing loss make?
“A hearing instrument won’t help me” or “I’m too old for a hearing instrument.” Some people choose to ignore their loss because they believe hearing instruments can’t help their specific type of loss. Or they incorrectly believe they are too old to benefit from amplification. In fact, 95 percent of all losses can be successfully treated. And no person is ever too old to benefit from the improved communication that hearing instruments can provide.
“My hearing loss isn’t that bad” or “A hearing instrument will make me look old.” Some people feel their hearing loss just isn’t “bad enough” to warrant treatment. Or they believe that seeking treatment would carry the stigma of getting old. Others are simply embarrassed at the idea of wearing a hearing instrument. Keep in mind – a hearing loss is more noticeable than today’s discreet, digital hearing instruments.
Think about it this way: moderate hearing loss is much like having vision impairment. Very few people with impaired vision would hesitate to wear eyeglasses or contact lenses. In fact, you can’t hold a driver’s license without doing so. Yet most people hesitate to seek help when it comes to treating hearing loss.
How do you know if someone has hearing loss?
Often a spouse, relative, friend or business associate is the first to notice a hearing loss. Initially, those who interact with the hearing impaired person often remark, “he doesn’t pay attention”, or “he ignores me.” As time progresses, it is not uncommon for interpersonal relationships to become strained and for family members and friends to become frustrated and even angry with the hearing impaired individual.
In the meantime, the hearing impaired person is going through emotional changes, which usually occur in stages. Being aware of these emotional stages, and the behaviors associated with them, will help you to better grasp how that person is dealing with their hearing loss and at what stage they are in relative to seeking help. This is important if you want to help them move toward help.
What are the stages of hearing loss?
The first stage is denial, which can take two forms: (1) the person doesn’t believe he/she has a hearing problem, and/or (2) the person cannot talk about the hearing problem. It is characterized by placing blame or responsibility on others. “I don’t have a problem. They mumble. They don’t speak clearly. They talk too fast.” are common comments during this stage. Denial is usually temporary, and it’s important to acknowledge the person’s fears and uncertainties. Be reassuring and supportive to help them move toward treatment.
Withdrawal often occurs after denial, since the person simply doesn’t expose him or herself to situations where hearing is difficult.
Anger is the next stage. You may notice that the hearing impaired person is “grouchy” or “has become difficult to live with.” Hearing impaired people may become less tolerant of others because of the comments, frustration, jokes and anger that have been directed at them. They are angry about the loss and how they are treated when they respond incorrectly or inappropriately in conversations with others. Respond with understanding and compassion.
Bargaining for just one more day of normal hearing or one more day of not having to deal with their problem is the most private stage of the process. Often, it will not be visible to others, including family members. It may stem from guilt that the loss could have been prevented or from being unable to do things that they could in the past. At this stage, they are not ready to accept help for their hearing loss.
Loss of self-esteem, difficulty in doing today what was easy yesterday, suspicion of others, social isolation and loneliness are all part of the depression stage. Making sure the hearing impaired individual is included in conversations, activities and decisions can help to prevent or shorten this stage.
The last stage is acceptance, when the individual admits he/she has a hearing loss and is ready to seek treatment — including hearing instruments, aural rehabilitation and auditory training.
How has the brain affected by hearing loss?
If hearing is lost gradually, the brain has been slowly deprived of the necessary stimulation of the vital sound frequencies for proper hearing. When your hearing deteriorates, the corresponding area of your brain has no input from your ear(s). This results in your inability to hear at normal volume levels.
How long does it take for the brain to adjust to hearing instruments?
This varies from person to person. Success with hearing instruments can be achieved in as little as six weeks or as long as six months.
Typically, success with hearing instruments comes faster for people who make a commitment to:
- Wearing their hearing instruments at all times
- Follow the guidelines of the specified after care program.
Is this normal for the amplified sounds in hearing instruments to seem tinny and unnatural?
This happens because the person is hearing high frequency speech sounds that he or she has been missing because of a hearing impairment. Hearing these sounds will eventually improve speech comprehension, but only if they continue to use the hearing instruments and the brain has time to adjust.
Is it normal for someone’s ears to be sore or slightly irritated when first wearing hearing instruments?
Minor physical sensitivity may occur in the first few days of use. As your ears become familiar with the instruments this problem should subside. If irritation persists, consult your Sherard Hearing professional. In some cases your hearing instruments may need to be slightly modified for a better fit.
Do hearing instruments require care and maintenance?
Hearing instruments operate in a hot and humid environment. They are susceptible to varying degrees of moisture and earwax. These unwanted elements can eventually inhibit the performance and operation of hearing instruments. We suggest following the care instructions listed in the operation manual. You should also visit your Sherard Hearing professional at least once a year to have your instruments cleaned and checked.
When do you need an audiologist?
If you are a child (state required).