Society doesn’t like to talk about the hearing loss that comes with age. It’s a reminder that we’re getting older, which is in turn a reminder of our own mortality. We rationalize it and tell ourselves that it’s fine, and we’ll just lean in closer when someone is talking, and surely no one will really notice anything is wrong, right? Unfortunately, people notice. It’s one thing if you have trouble making out certain words and phrases in the middle of a loud, crowded party. It’s another thing if you struggle to hear something being said to you in the middle of a quiet library.
Hearing loss can be embarrassing and inconvenient, but it can also be dangerous. Most states have laws requiring drivers to move over if there’s an ambulance or emergency vehicle coming through. If you can’t hear the wail of an ambulance siren, then you won’t know to move over. That’s putting yourself and others in a perilous situation. The best-case scenario in that situation is that a cop pulls you over and gives you a ticket. You’ll probably be shaken up by such an experience, but it won’t do you much good if you don’t use that lesson to start searching for a solution to your hearing loss.
Hearing aids and beyond
People with bad hearing can often be afraid of hearing aids. They think they’re bulky and unattractive, but the truth is, hearing aids have come a long way in recent years. An experienced audiologist can evaluate your hearing and talk to you about what sort of hearing aids might work best for your particular needs. Cosmetic concerns play a part, just like they do when you visit the dentist or go to the eye doctor. Communication style and financial considerations will also have a role in this process, since there’s no one-size fits all solution to helping patients hear better. Some people prefer in-the-ear hearing aids, or ITE, while others like behind-the-ear devices, or BTE. There are even accessories that work with Bluetooth to stream phone calls directly to your hearing aid.
Not everyone goes to a hearing clinic for the same issue, of course. Tinnitus is a poorly-misunderstood condition that can cause a lot of misery if it’s not treated properly. Hearing roaring, buzzing, clicking, and hissing noises with no apparent source can make you feel like you’re losing your sanity. Tinnitus can be caused by age-related hearing loss, or it can be caused by things like medication prescribed by your doctor. It may even be related to impacted earwax buildup, a condition that’s just as fun as it sounds.
Sometimes people blame themselves for their hearing loss. They think things like “I went to too many death metal concerts in college” or “I really should have worn earplugs when I was mowing the lawn.” Some experiences can certainly be more damaging to your eardrums than others (ask war veterans who spent time in combat zones), but to some degree or another, hearing loss happens to us all. If you’re experiencing it, then it’s not going to do you much good to worry about the past. The past is gone, and now it’s time to focus on creating a brighter future, one where you no longer have to say, “Sorry, I can’t hear you.”