The average person waits for five to seven years to seek help for a hearing problem. Those can be years of unnecessary social isolation and frustration. The earlier you seek help, the sooner the problem can be diagnosed and treated. People are a lot more self-conscious about their hearing than they are about Iheir vision. It is often an issue of vanity. Wearing a hearing aid somehow implies aging, while wearing glasses does not.
If you suspect you have a hearing problem, particularly if you have ringing in your ears or develop a sudden sensitivity to loud noises that did not bother you in the past, see your doctor or an E.N.T. specialist who specializes in diseases of the ear, nose and throat. Some hearing problems such as Meniere's disease, a disorder that causes ringing in the ears and dizziness, can be treated with prescription medication or surgery. Other conditions, such as perforated eardrums and otosclerosis, can be corrected with surgery.
If you have only a slight hearing loss, you should first try functioning as well as you can by such strategies as:
- Using an amplified telephone bell or door buzzer. Obviously, you do not want devices with such volumes that they disturb others. But slightly increasing the sound levels, may enable you to function normally without bothering anybody else.
- Using radio and TV earphones. Some people with normal hearing prefer to use these instruments, so there is certainly nothing unusual about their use by those with slight hearing loss.
- Being particularly alert during group conversations, and relaxing rather than becoming tense or anxious when you fail to pick up every word that is said. Often, by remaining calm and attentive, you can get the gist of most conversations as well as or even better than those with better hearing.
- Feeling free to ask people to repeat what they have said. Rather than trying to 'fake it' in one-to-one conversations with friends and acquaintances, it is usually best to say politely, "I am afraid I did not quite understand you. Could you repeat that?"
- Limiting background noise, such as radio and television sounds, that may interfere with your ability to hear discussions clearly.
- Watching closely the lips of those who are speaking, to see whether by a combination of visual and auditory means you can pick up the conversation. If you can, you probably do not need a hearing aid. Classes in lip-rading are available, and expertise in this skill can be very helpful if hearing continues to deteriorate.
Of course, at some point, when a person's hearing deteriorates too much, these strategies would not work well. At that time, it may be advisable to get mechanical assistance through a hearing device.