Hearing loss is so out of the closet these days. Twice last week I received flyers in the mail asking in big colorful letters – “DO YOU HAVE HEARING LOSS?” You’ve wasted this 50-cent flyer on me, buddy, that ship has already sailed.
Hearing loss is so common now that it’s discussed openly and frequently when people get together – people of a certain age, that is. You understand that it’s a common issue, but when your turn comes, somehow it’s different. Boom! All of a sudden you realize you’re not hearing that well anymore. Noise bothers you. You don’t understand words in the dark. You realize that what your family has been suggesting for a long time is true – you might have hearing loss. Gahhh!
A million questions swirl through your head – the same questions and complaints you’ve heard from other people but didn’t pay much attention to at the time. But now they’re important because they’re happening to you.
Why me? What caused this? For many people, the answer is immediate: Well, I guess all those years of loud head-bangin’ rock ‘n’ roll are paying me back. But there are many – MANY – causes of hearing loss and you don’t know which one applies to you. Maternal health issues? Low birthweight? Childhood disease and ear infections? Ototoxic medicine? A blow to the head? Getting old? If you’re not sure which of these (or any other reason) caused your hearing loss, I suggest going with, “Just lucky, I guess.” But the important thing is to do something about it when the roaring suspicions in your head are the loudest thing you hear.
Why should I get a hearing test? When? Let me spell it out for you. A hearing test will confirm whether or not you do have a measurable hearing loss, so that you’ll know what to do next. When? As soon as possible – why wait?
Where should I go and who should I see? You can ask your family doctor for a referral, or visit a local hearing aid clinic where an audiologist or hearing instrument specialist will measure your hearing. Ask friends if they like the hearing health professional they’re working with.
What strategies can I use if I don’t want to get – or can’t afford hearing aids? If it turns out that you do have a hearing loss that can be helped by amplification, ask the audiologist what your options are. But understand that amplification is often the first important step to better communication – and that’s what you want, right? If you can’t afford hearing aids, or at least the ones your audiologist recommends, ask for other options, including lower-cost technology. There are many other strategies that will help, even when you have hearing aids. Learn to manipulate the listening environment to your advantage – lighting up, noise down, and people facing you – these are all good starts. Most importantly, learn how to let people know that you have hearing loss. This is an important step and people are usually happy to oblige – if you let them know what you need.
If you’re at the beginning of the hearing loss chapter of your life, it helps to understand that you’re not alone. There’s help available – reach out for it.
Good luck – and keep asking questions!