Hear­ing loss stigma im­pacts qual­ity of life


Lethbridge Herald - - HEALTH -

Why is it that we ac­cept the fact that ev­ery­one should see their dentist twice a year to de­tect den­tal de­cay? That we should get reg­u­lar eye ex­am­i­na­tions and a checkup by our fam­ily doc­tor once a year? But iron­i­cally we rarely, if ever, hear that we should do the same for our ears! So why is this? And why am I not going to tell any­one that I can now fi­nally hear?

By in­ter­view­ing a num­ber of ex­perts my re­search re­vealed an in­ter­est­ing fact. Even in 2017 large num­bers of North Amer­i­cans con­tinue to hide in the hear­ing loss closet. And I’m em­bar­rassed to tell read­ers I’ve also been hid­ing in the same closet for years.

But I’ve had a lot of com­pany. Stud­ies show that even teenagers, one in five of them, have hear­ing loss but do not get help. We know that 60 per cent of veter­ans who have served in a war zone need hear­ing help. More­over, those 70 years of age and older who need hear­ing aid never get it. And that, on av­er­age, peo­ple who no­tice they’re hard of hear­ing wait seven years be­fore seek­ing help.

So why are we all so fool­ish? The Journal of Med­i­cal Pro­fes­sion­als with Hear­ing Losses re­ports that those hard of hear­ing are of­ten viewed by oth­ers “with a mix­ture of fear, scorn, dis­taste, mis­un­der­stand­ing and pity.” This is re­ally hit­ting us be­tween the eyes, caus­ing psy­cho­log­i­cal con­cus­sion.

But it’s amaz­ing and ap­palling that it wasn’t un­til the mid-1970s that peo­ple fi­nally re­al­ized that young peo­ple with hear­ing loss could ac­tu­ally learn! No won­der some peo­ple re­mained in the closet!

The blunt mes­sage is that stigma re­mains at­tached to hear­ing loss. It’s re­ally an asi­nine rea­son. After all, no one gives a sec­ond thought to those who wear glasses, use canes, or are con­fined to a wheel­chair.

So why did I and so many peo­ple put off seek­ing help after say­ing “par­don me” so of­ten? For one thing, hear­ing loss doesn’t kill, un­less you can’t hear a car com­ing. But there’s still a feel­ing that dif­fi­culty hear­ing is as­so­ci­ated with old age and who wants to be old? So why not strug­gle a lit­tle longer be­fore fi­nally ad­mit­ting you’re miss­ing a lot of what’s going on around you? One can al­ways find ex­cuses for do­ing noth­ing. I was also aware of fail­ures with hear­ing aids and be­ing of Scotch her­itage, I didn’t want to spend money with­out good re­sults!

So why the sud­den change for me? I sim­ply be­came tired of ask­ing peo­ple to re­peat them­selves, and strug­gling at med­i­cal in­ter­views to hear those who speak softly. Since I’m not a hear­ing ex­pert I asked sev­eral au­thor­i­ties where they would send their own mother. I was told that Con­nect Hear­ing is Canada’s lead­ing physi­cian re­ferred hear­ing health­care provider, so it was a no brainer.

Con­nect Hear­ing ar­ranged an au­di­ol­ogy ex­am­i­na­tion to an­a­lyze my type and sever­ity of hear­ing loss.

Luck­ily, I had no nerve de­gen­er­a­tion so could be given a hear­ing aid that au­to­mat­i­cally ad­justs to sound.

So what has hap­pened to me? Now that I can hear I re­al­ize it was a ma­jor mis­take to de­lay an au­di­ol­ogy test. And no one needs to lean closer to me for a con­ver­sa­tion. Or say “did you miss that, Giff?” Rather, the lit­tle gizmo has opened up a whole new world in con­ver­sa­tion, mu­sic and TV. I can even hear the sec­ond hand of my watch tick­ing.

But, for now, I’m not divulging to any­one that I can hear well. Why? Be­cause I re­call the story of the el­derly per­son who came out of the closet and was de­lighted with his new near­ing aid.

But he said he was not do­ing much talk­ing. Rather, he was do­ing an aw­ful lot of lis­ten­ing. And be­cause of his new ears he has al­ready changed his will three times!

So re­mem­ber, no one has ever died from laugh­ter nor deaf­ness. But no one should re­main in the closet when help is as close as your lo­cal au­di­ol­o­gist. The end re­sult is in­creased qual­ity of life!

GOOD DOC­TOR Dr. Gif­fordJones Dr. Gif­ford-Jones is a med­i­cal doc­tor and syn­di­cated colum­nist. His col­umn ap­pears each Thursday.

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