Unlike other chronic conditions that inspire us to know as much as possible about them, people tend to resist hearing loss education. Here are five reasons that might help explain such an overall lack of urgency and curiosity.
Although this is no longer true, the stigma of hearing loss being an “old-folks’ thing” feeds the enormous denial that plagues the condition. People resist recognizing and accepting the truth because they do not want to be seen as “old.” Instead of learning about their communication challenges and their options, they hide and bluff and deny ─ which hardly ever conveys a youthful image.
Unlike other ailments, hearing loss does not hurt. In most cases, it happens slowly over time. Sound—speech and music—become duller and duller and quality of life takes a turn for the worse. But, there is no pain that sends us screaming to the doctor asking for information and explanations. In general, discomfort motivates people to seek medical diagnosis and treatment. This is an important reason why hearing loss education does not rate very highly.
Conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease will have dire consequences unless they are treated and tended to. People understand that they must get involved and try to help themselves. Hearing loss affects communication with loved ones and with colleagues at work. It leads to depression and isolation, but it is not a life-threatening affliction. There is no immediate threat that makes us want to know more.
All education is time-consuming and hearing loss is a complicated issue. But so are diabetes and heart disease and arthritis and autoimmune conditions. In those cases, we have no trouble understanding that knowledge gives us options and that it allows us to become actively involved in our care. Although hearing loss is no different, there is no sense of urgency or belief in the value of the effort of learning.
“Just get a hearing aid,” I have often been told. If only it had been that simple! However, the comment speaks to the fact that in our high-tech world we want quick and easy answers. Technology is the solution. This is one of the reasons why people do not heed prevention messages. And yes, there is lot of great technology on the market. But how does it apply to our case?
Hearing aids and other assistive devices can be tremendously helpful, but they do not heal hearing loss or work other miracles. Relying almost exclusively on information from glitzy ads fosters expectations that all too often are not met. Therefore, understanding the basics about hearing loss and assistive resources works in our favor at a time when important life decisions are made.
Learn to sail the ship…
There is indeed value in hearing loss education. It pays to be curious and to learn. Overall, knowledge eases the choppy waters of difficult journeys – hearing loss included. As author Louisa May Alcott once said:” I am not afraid of storms for I am learning how to sail my ship.” So, isn’t it about time to get on board and learn?
To learn about ears and hearing and technology, please see my book on hearing loss: What Did You Say? An Unexpected Journey into the World of Hearing Loss, now in its second updated edition. Sharing my story and what I had to learn the hard way.