The choice to seek care for hearing loss is more than just a medical consideration.
For most of us, the decision whether or not to use hearing aids is tied up in some of the deepest aspects of who we are. Whether it be our work, our relationships, or our very sense of self, hearing loss can affect us in ways that those with healthy hearing could never imagine.
For a few months now, I’ve been working with a local contractor’s union, trying to help their members receive the treatment they need. After years out in the field, many of these men have developed severe hearing loss.
But so far, none of them have been willing to do anything about it. In an industry that’s so much about showing strength and prowess, they imagine that wearing hearing aids is a sign of vulnerability.
Worried that they’ll be made fun of by their colleagues, they’d rather keep up appearances. They bargain with themselves to find ways around getting hearing aids. And so, their hearing loss is left unchecked until 20 years down the line.
Members of other professions often see the need for hearing treatment right away.
One patient came in recently who worked in tech at a large company. His hearing loss had become an obstacle in the workplace, so he was eager to fix the problem. “Communication is key to what we’re doing right now,” he told me.
He needed hearing aids to stay competitive. In a fast-paced office environment, maintaining your edge often outweighs everything else.
But of course, our hearing affects more than our work. It extends to the foundation of our self-perception. Another patient came in the other day, and showed me his old hearing aids from 2011. “I wore these probably 20 times total,” he said.
When I asked why, he just shook his head. “I don’t know,” he said, “Maybe I’m vain, but these things make me feel 66.” Even though he was 66, he didn’t feel like a “senior” until he put hearing aids in his ears.
He looked me in the eye and told me something that nearly all of my patients could relate to. “I just don’t want to feel like I’m no longer relevant.”
Whenever a patient comes into my office, I listen to their concerns before I offer advice. I know that hearing loss ties into our identity, our mortality, our very experience of the world around us. I will never, ever shame a patient or tell them to “get over themselves.”
But here’s the thing: If you’re concerned about becoming irrelevant, the surest way of ensuring that happens is to let your hearing loss go untreated.
Don’t let some imaginary social stigma prevent you from receiving the treatment you need to be happy. Give me a call at 617-934-6987, and get back to the things you really care about.