It can take a person years to confront and address their hearing loss for a variety of reasons. Hearing loss typically happens gradually so it can be overlooked for quite some time. Additionally, people often think that impaired hearing is not a serious medical condition and that they can pretend to hear their way through a conversation. However, this can actually be detrimental for your physical and mental health as it can worsen impairment and impact your ability to manage personal and professional responsibilities. It is important to understand the impact of pretending to hear and ways you can intervene to protect your hearing health!
Why We Pretend to Hear
People with untreated hearing sometimes pretend to hear for different reasons that are relatable. This includes:
- Want to feel included: most of us have pretended to hear during a conversation! People with and without hearing loss do this to not interrupt a person speaking and to avoid any embarrassment associated with not having heard or understood something. Ultimately, we all want to feel included in social settings and may not want to interrupt a conversation.
- Want to avoid being treated differently: disclosing hearing loss and sharing hearing needs is difficult to do. You may not want to bring attention to your hearing loss by asking others to repeat themselves, speak slowly, and/or loudly. People don’t want to be treated differently and can feel like asking others to make adjustments is somehow burdensome.
- Haven’t accepted hearing loss reality: people may also struggle with coming to terms with their hearing loss. It is difficult to accept that your health may be changing and that you need assistance. So, operating from a place of denial or minimizing the issue, people may pretend to hear to cope with the symptoms they are experiencing.
These reasons, though understandable, prevent people from addressing their hearing loss. Delaying treatment can worsen impairment, affecting all aspects of life and overall health.
Impact on Hearing Health
Pretending to hear and living with untreated hearing loss profoundly impacts day to day life by:
- Straining communication: pretending to hear only worsens symptoms like tinnitus (buzzing/ringing noise in the ears), increasing volume on devices, unable to hear in environments with background noise, difficulty identifying specific words etc. These symptoms make it difficult to follow and engage in conversations.
- Leading to social withdrawal: conversations can feel like too much work and too stressful which leads people to avoid them altogether. People may avoid social settings, activities, and events which means spending less time with family and friends. Isolation impacts relationships by creating distance and possibly tension.
- Worsening health outcomes: strained communication and social withdrawal contributes to anxiety, stress, depression, loneliness etc. Receiving less energy and stimulation impacts physical and mental health. Additionally, untreated hearing loss increases the risk of developing other medical conditions like dementia as well as experiencing accidental injuries and underemployment.
To prevent these difficult outcomes, it is important to intervene and seek treatment which can drastically improve quality of life.
The first step of addressing hearing loss is simple! All it involves is scheduling an appointment for a hearing test. Conducted by a hearing healthcare specialist, hearing tests are a noninvasive and painless way to measure your hearing ability in both ears. This identifies any impairment and the degree of hearing loss you may be experiencing.
Fortunately, there are useful ways that hearing loss is treated. The most common treatment is hearing aids which are electronic devices that absorb, amplify, and process sound. This significantly increases hearing ability. Similar to most electronics today, hearing aids have experienced much innovation that has allowed them to easily integrate into daily life while maximizing hearing in all environments.
In addition to wearing hearing aids, it is important to share your hearing needs with others so you can avoid pretending to hear! After your hearing test and wearing hearing aids, you become an expert on effective communication strategies. It is important to share how to best engage in conversation that facilitates greater hearing and understanding for everyone involved. So be sure to advocate for your hearing needs and protect your hearing health!