Hearing loss doesn't just happen to the elderly. Many people in their 40s and 50s have some degree of hearing loss.
Hearing Loss Denial continued...
"About three-fourths of the men and women who have a
hearing loss never show up at an audiologist's office," says Mason, former
director of the audiology program at George Washington University Hospital.
Patients often tell her, "My spouse made me come in. She told me that the
TV is so loud that she was going out of her mind."
Ironically, the person with the hearing deficit may be the last
person to realize he has a problem. Hearing loss tends to occur gradually over
a number of years, and people often adjust and may not even be aware that their
hearing has steadily worsened -- although family members and co-workers
certainly know it. "Their hearing loss may become the norm for them,"
says Friedman. "They may feel it's normal to miss out on parts of
conversations. They often blame the people they're speaking with, complaining
that others mumble."
Do You Hear What I Hear?
Your primary care doctor can test your hearing in her office
with a portable handheld sound-production device (called an audioscope) that
generates tones of various frequencies. If you show signs of possible hearing
loss, you probably will be referred to an audiologist, who is trained in
assessing hearing disorders and fitting hearing aids.
The available diagnostic tools are more sophisticated now than
in the past, says Friedman, and are better able to identify hearing loss,
including the site of any damage (in the outer, middle, or inner ear). The
audiologist will perform a comprehensive battery of tests.
Once hearing loss is identified, people in their 40s and 50s
are frequently intent on "fixing" the problem. "Baby boomers have
different expectations about their hearing loss," says Loavenbruck.
"Unlike many older people, they're less likely to say, 'It's part of
getting older; I'm just going to live with it.' They want to take care of the
problem. I find that these younger people are much more likely to say, 'I'm
willing to wear a hearing aid if it will help me avoid the communication
difficulties that annoy me,' whereas years ago, there was a terrible stigma
attached to hearing loss."