Hearing loss is not just a medical condition, it is a profound change to a patient’s entire way of life. Without proper treatment, hearing loss will often progress to the point where the patient can no longer hear soft sounds, barely hear conversations, or is completely unable to hear at all—and even when patients realize these risks, they may still delay treatment for several years.
Understanding the Five Stages of Hearing Loss
The stages of hearing loss progress from avoiding the issue to accepting that the problem exists. It can take a long time for patients to progress through these stages, and some may never admit that they need treatment. You can help ease a loved one closer to getting help simply by knowing the steps of the hearing loss journey:
- Denial. Patients begin in the denial stage. They are unwilling to admit that a hearing problem exists, and any evidence friends or family offer is usually blamed on something else. A patient in denial may claim that other people mumble or talk too fast, or that they hear what you are saying even if they don’t respond. If someone you know is in the denial phase, you should be compassionate and understand that admitting to a problem can be difficult. If you broach the topic of hearing loss, always do so without shame, judgment, or blame, and offer support or information if they begin talking about treatment.
- Anger. Hearing loss places many limitations on a patient, and constantly finding ways to adapt can be frustrating. The demands on hearing loss sufferers can cause them to become angry, ill-tempered, or irritable. They may even suspect that others know about their condition, and become angry at them for treating them differently or “talking about them behind their backs.” If they cannot hear their friends’ jokes or comments, hearing loss patients may assume they are the butt of the joke. Even if a hearing loss sufferer is hostile, responding with anger will not help. Remain positive and understanding, and realize that your friend may not know how to ask for help.
- Withdrawal. Even when patients begin to recognize the limitations of their hearing condition, they may prefer to avoid others rather than seek treatment. In the withdrawal phase, hearing loss sufferers begin to grieve the loss of their hearing, choosing to stay outside of social situations where their condition could be discovered. This approach does not help solve the problem, and is actually damaging to the patient’s mental health and social support system. Again, patience is key to helping a withdrawn relative feel comfortable enough to discuss his or her condition.
- Depression. Loss of hearing can lead to other losses, including social isolation, a drop in self-esteem, and a loss of a person’s self-worth. Once a hearing loss sufferer has entered depression, it can be difficult to motivate him or her to rejoin social situations. It is vital that you continue to include the patient in conversations and activities, and acknowledge his or her fears about social situations. Make it clear that you want him or her to be comfortable, and you will do anything you can to help.
- Acceptance. Patients who have strong support systems are most likely to reach the final stage of hearing loss: acceptance. In this stage, hearing loss patients can admit that there is a problem and that they are ready to explore their treatment options. Your support is still necessary at this stage, as patients often need help choosing a hearing aid device or adjusting to life after treatment.
Recognize the Early Warning Signs of Hearing Loss
If you yourself are experiencing hearing loss, you should be aware that you do not have to languish in the five stages of hearing loss for years before seeking treatment. The sooner you realize that you have a problem, you can begin to take action and avoid the negative reactions experienced by many patients. For instance, if you have difficulty hearing women and children, you should know that hearing loss typically affects the highest frequencies first. Armed with this knowledge, you can make a hearing testing appointment as quickly as possible, increasing your chances of full hearing loss recovery.
If you are ready to take control of your hearing loss, our hearing care providers can diagnose your condition and help you choose the device that is right for you. Call the number on this page or click the appointment tab to schedule a consultation at our office nearest you!