We’re often told about the importance of being a good loser. Someone who, in the words of Rudyard Kipling, can meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two imposters just the same.
But if we’re being honest here, nobody really enjoys the feeling of losing. Whether it’s a friendly game of cards or England vs Australia in The Ashes, deep down everybody wants to be on the winning side. I’m sure even Mr. Kipling afforded himself a small celebration when his words were received as a poetic masterpiece.
Call it the law of the jungle, call it human nature, but the desire to win and not lose reveals itself time and again in our behaviour. That’s why we never admit to losing our keys, merely “misplacing” them or discovering they “just aren’t where we left them”. It’s also why many people refuse to ask for directions, no matter how hopelessly lost they are.
And we see the exact same forces at play when it comes to hearing loss. We’d sooner claim everyone else is mumbling or turn up the TV an extra notch, rather than admit the uncomfortable truth – that our hearing simply isn’t as acute as it once was.
There’s more than sound at stake
We’ve all experienced situations where we respond to loss with denial or deflection. But unlike lost keys or a failure on the cricket field, hearing loss can have wide-reaching and sometimes heart-breaking results when left untreated.
A recent study carried out over 25 years for example, found that people with hearing loss who didn’t wear hearing aids experienced a significant decline in their cognitive capacity, a symptom commonly linked to Alzheimer’s and Dementia. By contrast, the same study found another group who did use hearing aids had no discernable reduction of their brain function.
Similarly, a survey of over 4000 people by The National Council on Hearing found people who wore hearing aids saw their physical, mental, social and emotional wellbeing improve. They were also more likely to engage in social activities than people who didn’t wear hearing aids and generally felt more in control of their lives. What’s more, researchers found hearing aids can start to improve brain performance in as little as six weeks.
Studies like these underline what audiologists and ear specialists have long known. That a good sense of hearing is vital for a rich and healthy life. And hearing impairments regularly have the opposite effect.
Yet 1 in 6 UK adults are living with impaired hearing, many of whom are yet to seek treatment. So what can we do – as friends, family, audiologists and society in general – to change the way we think about hearing?
Heard it through the grapevine? 4 myths about hearing
To improve attitudes towards hearing, we first need to challenge a few misconceptions and out-of-date views. Here are three ‘false facts’ I’ve heard time and time again, all of which contribute to a negative mentality around hearing treatment.
Myth #1: Most people’s hearing remains good, even in later life
The truth: Like our vision, our sense of hearing naturally diminishes as most of us grow older. In fact, age-related hearing loss (presbycusis) is one of the most common conditions that affect older and elderly adults.
Myth #2: Hearing aids are big and unsightly
The truth: Unlike previous generations of hearing aids, the vast majority of today’s models are incredibly small and discrete. In fact, some are even concealed entirely in the ear canal, where they are effectively invisible from the outside.
Myth #3: Hearing aids are uncomfortable to wear
The truth: Like wearing glasses, it can take a little time to adjust to the feeling of a new hearing aid. But like wearing glasses, it quickly becomes a very natural feeling. To help matters, many modern aids are moulded to the unique contours of your ear, ensuring a perfectly comfortable fit.
Myth #4: Hearing aids don’t make any difference
The truth: While hearing aids may not be able to restore your hearing 100%, they almost always result in better hearing and an improved quality of life. Modern hearing aids are incredibly sophisticated pieces of equipment and, when adapted by a professional audiologist, can target very specific hearing impairments.
Less of the loss
As well as tackling misconceptions, I believe we also need to find new ways to talk about hearing loss. Very few people I meet in my hearing centre would actually say they’ve “lost” their hearing. The vast majority experience a gradual attenuation over time. So perhaps we’d be better served by talking in terms of decrease, fade or diminution. Words that acknowledge there is a spectrum on which we all lie, rather than suggesting hearing is a binary sense which you either have or you’ve lost.
Lastly, I’d like to see a shift of focus from the problem to the solution. Hearing loss isn’t a fait accompli. It’s largely reversible and in some cases completely so. To return to my earlier analogies, it’s like a set of keys that never gets misplaced. Or an England team that always snatches victory in the final moments of the match. To me, that is the most wonderful thing – perhaps the greatest kind of triumph there is.
So let’s start today. We can all recognise the good fortune that modern science has given us invisible hearing aids that are comfortable to wear, ear irrigation to treat ear wax, cochlear ear implants and many other forms of sophisticated treatment. But the onus falls on us to embrace the victory of restored hearing. We need to take positive action and change the way we think and talk about hearing.
But above all, we need to ditch the notion of loss and adopt a winning mentality.
Are you living with impaired hearing?
If you are interested in learning more about how you can improve your hearing health and live a richer happier life, then please get in touch. At Sevenoaks Hearing, we provide a bespoke hearing service, using state-of-the-art technology to provide an accurate diagnosis and an effective solution. As we are independent of any manufacturer, we can also provide the best solution for your lifestyle. Find out about our hearing assessments and treatment services.
Written by Matt Canon, Lead Audiologist at Sevenoaks Hearing. Visit our independent hearing centres in Sevenoaks, Banstead and East Grinstead or book an appointment now.