What No One Tells You about Hearing Loss

by Jan Wilberg

No one tells you that people will get mad at you if you can’t hear them. They will get exasperated, roll their eyes, and shake their heads because they think they’re talking plenty loud and you ought to be able to understand what they’re saying.

You’re just not trying hard enough. You can feel their judgment like sandpaper across your face. And, sometimes, because you know they’re yelling at you, you start to absorb the judgment. You aren’t trying hard enough to hear. You need to concentrate, focus, screen out the distractions. So you try harder, but it doesn’t work and, pretty soon, people just give up on you.

No one tells you that most hearing loss isn’t about loudness at all. If you have sensorineural hearing loss, like I do, making things louder only makes matters worse. That’s because the issue isn’t about decibels, it’s about the inability of the nerves in the cochlea to accurately transmit sounds to the brain. In other words, people can talk as loud as they want to a person with this kind of hearing loss but often what they are saying just simply will not compute. It’s almost impossible for a hearing-impaired person to explain: I hear you but I don’t know what you’re saying.

There are other things no one tells you. Audiologists deal with the intricate mechanics of hearing, both biological and technical. But they don’t say much about what will happen to your life — how serious hearing loss will diminish your confidence, damage your work and personal life, and make hash of your ego. Eventually, though, hearing loss makes you tougher than you ever thought you could be. It’s a long journey to that point.

Here are some of consequences of serious hearing loss.

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