Despite the fact that deafness can be socially isolating, it can take up to 10 years for people who clearly have hearing loss to get tested. And 4 million people in the UK have undiagnosed hearing loss, according to the UK charity Action on Hearing Loss.
A key reason for those long years in denial about deafness is the stigma of hearing loss.
Losing your hearing is associated with getting old and hearing aids are often viewed negatively by people who aren't aware of more recent advances in technology and design. In some sections of society, people who can’t hear properly face prejudice.
If you have hearing loss, you may feel cut off from the world, and evidence shows that this can lead to depression. Your confidence can also be eroded because you struggle to hear, causing you to avoid social contact.
If you're concerned that you may be losing your hearing, tackling the problem early can improve both your hearing and your quality of life, including your relationships.
You and your partner
Delaying diagnosis can also affect your relationships with family and friends. An Action on Hearing Loss survey of couples where one partner had hearing loss found that it can be very frustrating for partners. In some cases, hearing loss results in couples talking at cross-purposes. This causes friction, which can develop into ongoing resentment.
Partners of people with hearing loss also commonly complain of loneliness, feeling isolated, missing out on companionship and a poor social life because previous social activities are curtailed.
Ignoring the problem of hearing loss won’t make it go away. And you could be missing out on devices that could help you hear better and improve you and your partner's quality of life.
If, after your hearing is tested, you find out that you could benefit from hearing aids, try to start using them as soon as possible. This is because you will benefit more from being fitted with hearing aids while your hearing loss is relatively mild, rather than waiting for it to get worse. The earlier you start using hearing aids, the better your brain adapts to all the sounds it hears. The longer you leave it, the more difficult it is for the brain to try to tease out the information you are trying to hear.
Reasons to confront your hearing loss
If your hearing seems to be declining, here are four good reasons to acknowledge that there may be a problem and to seek help:
You’ll have a better relationship with family and friends.
An Action on Hearing Loss report found that early use of hearing aids by people with hearing loss improved their relationships with loved ones.
There is a huge amount of hearing loss help available
This help includes digital hearing aids, which are much smaller and easier to control than previous versions. There are also gadgets to make your life easier, including extra-loud landlines and mobile phones, amplifiers and flashing doorbells, sonic boom and vibrating alarm clocks, and vibrating watches.
National charity Action on Hearing Loss provides practical support and information for people with hearing loss including hearing aid support services for people with NHS hearing aids.
The charity Hearing Link runs community support programmes as well as rehabilitation programmes and self-management classes.
It’s better to start wearing hearing aids sooner rather than later.
Getting used to amplified sound is harder if you’ve already got used to a quieter world, which means your hearing aid will be less effective.
You’re not alone.
One person in six in the UK is deaf or has hearing loss. That’s an estimated 10 million people in the UK. So, if you think you’re losing your hearing, take a free hearing test. Your GP can then refer you, if necessary, for further tests and advice.