Thursday, July 19, 2012

What if hearing loss "hurt'?


I spoke to a Chiropractor friend of mine earlier this week. By 3:30 p.m., his office had already seen 56 patients. I can't imagine seeing 56 patients in one day! But that's a fairly normal day for this doctor. People come to him for relief from pain, among other things. After he adjusts them, they feel better, which is obviously the reason people continue to make their follow-up appointments.

Which got me thinking. What would people do if hearing loss was painful? I'm not talking about ear infections and the like. I'm talking about normal (physically) pain-free sensorineural hearing loss that plagues most people with hearing loss. If the treatment involved temporary relief from pain until the next time, would there be more adopters of treatment by way of hearing aids? I'm not saying I wish hearing loss hurt; what I'm saying is I think it would be easier to convince someone with a newly diagnosed hearing loss to take that next step towards amplification if they had a nagging, painful reminder of their ailment.

As an Audiologist, it is so incredibly frustrating to see a patient that needs hearing aids, knows they need hearing aids, but decides to not use amplification. It leaves me scratching my head, asking, "why did they even bother to get a test if they weren't going to accept help?!?" Which leads me back to my question of, "if it physically hurt them, would it have made a difference?" I think about patients of mine that have had hip and knee replacements and most say that what drove them to having it done was the excrutiating pain they felt, the activities it kept them from doing. In general, their quality of life suffered as a result of their ailment.

Yet, many people with hearing loss say they can 'get by' without hearing aids. They never stop to think what the consequences of not taking the next step to amplification will be. While they may be able to ignore their hearing loss because it doesn't physically hurt, few consider the consequences of untreated hearing loss. Studies have linked untreated hearing loss to:
  • fatigue
  • reduced job performance and earning potential
  • impaired memory and inability to learn new tasks
  • reduced alertness and increased risk to personal safety
  • depression
  • increased stress
  • avoidance or withdrawal from social situations
  • irritability
  • anger and negativism
  • social rejection and loneliness
  • diminished psychological and overall health
Hearing loss is not just an issue for the elderly and infirm. It happens to people of all ages. Those who have difficulty hearing can experience such distorted and incomplete communication that it seriously impacts their professional and personal lives, which can lead to isolation and withdrawal.

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