Hearing loss is a terrible thing to have happen to you because it is difficult to rectify if, in fact, it can be at all. Using hearing aids are great but like me, so many people would rather battle on without them, despite the frustration it can cause other people. Sometimes there are medical contraindications to the fitting of a hearing aid. These can depend on whether the hearing aid uses air or bone conduction to deliver the sound. I have had problems with both and despite my keen desire to fix the problem I still battle on.
A Case Study by Peter Sergeant
Hearing loss is a critical issue for business people
Deafness came on me slowly starting about 20 years ago. Suddenly one night I had a crackling in one ear. From that time on I have lost 100% hearing in that ear.
Medical specialists put it down to rifle shooting, water skiing, machinery noise, and driving cars with the windows down. Hereditary factors had some bearing on my overall deafness. Thankfully I still have 60% hearing in one ear.
In business, basic auditory abilities take on functional significance. You lose the ability to detect and recognise meaningful sounds and inflexions in conversations. More importantly, it simply becomes difficult to perceive and understand spoken language, particularly missing keywords and phrases.
With the hearing loss, it becomes difficult to identify the source and location of a sound again making it difficult in the work environment. When I call out to my PA and she answers “Here’. To me, she could be anywhere in a 360-degree radius.
The ability to carry out auditory tasks in the real world is influenced not only by hearing difficulties but also by a multitude of situational factors. Factors such as background noise, road noise and other competing signals. Today I find room acoustics, and familiarity with the situation play a big role in my ability to communicate. For instance, I hate restaurants, meeting rooms and conference facilities with tiled or wooden floors. I now prefer to eat Alfresco and conduct meetings in the open air. Such things are important regardless of whether you have a hearing loss or not. But the effects are magnified when the hearing is impaired.
Hearing loss can cost you income and even your career
In my case, I used to enjoy running planning facilitation meetings for companies where there might be 10 to 30 people involved. Recently I have had to give it away as I just miss too much of the conversations that are going on. I now have to restrict myself to two or three individuals in a setting that I approve. Once I used to run 10 to 15 interactive workshops and presentations a month with anything up to 500 people. This will probably give you some idea of how earning capacity can be restricted with a hearing loss.
Hearing loss affects you in many ways
Because hearing loss tends to disrupt interpersonal communication and to interfere with your perception of meaningful environmental sounds. Some individuals experience significant levels of distress as a result of their hearing problems.
- You have problems learning via audio or physical presentations.
- Alertness is diminished which can lead to increased risk to personal safety if due care is not taken.
- People around you become frustrated.
- I find it does have an impact on my overall health and well-being.
- Your work performance and earning power can be greatly reduced.
- Irritability can lead to relationship breakdowns.
- You miss important and critical parts in conversations.
- Sometimes you will answer the wrong questions.
- Social rejection and loneliness can result from hearing loss.
- You tend to avoid or withdraw from social situations because you don’t feel comfortable.
- It can cause you to be anti-social because it’s just too difficult to hear.
- Negativity can be a problem because of your frustrations.
- You can become angry much more quickly because of the frustration.
- Hearing loss can lead to fatigue, anxiety, stress and depression.
- It becomes frustrating trying to read the subtitles on the television, particularly if they are badly done.
Peter Drucker says “The most important thing in communication is hearing what is not said”. Unfortunately, people with deafness have difficulty hearing what is said.
Good hearing is essential to physical and emotional well-being
Healthcare organisations navigating requirements for people with hearing loss and needing assistance to tackle one of the biggest challenges. Engaging people with hearing loss and driving their positive behaviours. But whose role is most critical in this effort, the person with the hearing loss? There are so many people with hearing loss, particularly in farming areas. Yet, too often they are left alone to connect the dots. Together, we must help them transition from the silent life to the life they enjoy with better hearing.
Helping them seems to me to be about changing the public conversation on hearing. To show how people who experience hearing loss can move from fear and denial to enjoying life, with resilience, happiness, and good health. Over the years hearing aids have made great advances and for many, lets them go about their business in a relatively normal way. But for many others, it’s still a nightmare.
Hearing well has general health benefits
Surprisingly, many of us wait for many years before even acknowledging we’re having trouble hearing and get a hearing aid. Why? For some of us, it’s denial or fear of looking old. With others, the hearing loss is so gradual they might not be aware of the insidious progression of it.
We should be talking about the profound impact that hearing well can have on people’s lives. And we should be talking about what is gained by hearing well, social interaction, family connection, and workplace productivity. Not about what is lost. Hearing loss is not a stand-alone disability. It is linked to everything we do every single day.
Yet, failing to get hearing tested and corrected early may actually contribute to ageing faster. It certainly contributes to a decline in a person’s career. They say hearing loss can be associated with earlier onset of dementia and earlier mortality. And there is six times the rate of accidents compared to those with normal hearing.
Contributing to these negative health consequences is the isolation, the loss of interactive communication with others due to inability to hear clearly. This results in loneliness, which is known to have a negative health impact. Unfortunately, when the sound and conversation input is diminished, the brain loses the ability to distinguish sounds. This means having to ‘re-learn’ to hear when you finally get a hearing aid.
Start some conversations about hearing loss
Instead of hearing loss, talk about what you gain when you hear, allowing others to live life to the fullest. Life is about keeping the critical ability to stay connected to family, friends and colleagues. Recent studies have found that hearing loss had a greater impact on life than a cardiac disease, stroke, cancer, and many other common health issues.
I’ve have learned that hearing loss, which can be in many cases alleviated fairly easily, is a largely a hidden problem, even though it affects so many people. In fact, it’s hardly surprising given our exposure to noisy machinery, guns, rock concerts, car stereos, earbuds, traffic jams, jet engines, and extreme sports.
Hearing loss is no longer associated with old age. It’s here now and it’s something many will experience sooner than they expect. As a result, it can’t be stressed enough the importance of protecting your hearing and preventing hearing loss from the loud noises in our environment. Have your hearing tested early and regularly.
Your own hearing loss story may still be down the road. But you can help others with your understanding of their hearing loss problems and what they can do about it. Keep in mind that early intervention and early testing, can mean you won’t lose your all-important relationships and you’ll never miss the wonderful sounds of nature all around you.
For the latest information on hearing loss and what you can do: AARP Hearing Resource Center.
Harvard Medical School: A guide to prevention and treatment
“My eyesight is not nearly as good, my hearing is probably going away, my memory is slipping too. But I’m still around”. John Wooden
“The thing about hearing loss is that no one can see it. Most people are so impatient they just assume that the person with hearing loss is being rude, or slow-witted”. Marion Ross