Now Hear This: How Hearing Loss Affects Your Life - Part 1
By Jim Lemonds
Editor: Jim Lemonds has written this very insightful article on how
hearing loss affects people, and on some of the things we can do to
reduce the impact of hearing loss. Jim is a freelance writer and editor
located in Castle Rock, Washington. His website is accessible at
This article is reprinted with Jim's kind permission.
Frustrated by her husband's lack of responsiveness and his
unwillingness to admit that he had a hearing problem, Diane Moskowitz
opted for a creative solution.
"One night, she asked me how I was going to know when she wanted
to have sex if I didn't have a hearing aid," recalls Rick Seifert,
a former Daily News reporter.
"I said, 'Why would I need a hand grenade to know when you want
to have sex?"
Shortly thereafter, Rick purchased a hearing aid.
Unfortunately, not everyone takes action.
Local residents beset by hearing loss
According to Dr. Richard Carmen, author of "Hearing Loss &
Hearing Aids," approximately 30 million Americans suffer from
significant hearing loss. Yet only 20 percent seek treatment. Dr. Chris
Moor, an audiologist at Ear, Nose & Throat Clinic of the Northwest
in Longview, says there are many causes of hearing loss, including
childhood diseases, repeated ear infections, and exposure to machinery
or loud music.
Dwight Nelson, owner of Beltone dealerships in Kelso and Vancouver,
said that Cowlitz County has a high incidence of work-related hearing
problems. "People who worked in the mills or in logging often have
a big loss in their higher frequencies."
But the most common cause of hearing impairment is caused by
presbycusis -- age-related loss.
"With so many baby boomers getting older, cases of presbycusis
are on the rise," Moor said. "Nerves degenerate or cells in
the cochlea stop doing their job. Things stiffen up in the inner
The ability to comprehend speech is one of the first casualties.
"It's not an inability to hear that's the problem," Nelson
said. "It's your ability to understand what you hear.
"High frequencies are impacted most noticeably," Moor said.
Consonants, which are carried by those high frequencies, convey 80
percent of the meaning of language, so when they aren't heard clearly,
impairment can be severe.
Moor's job is to conduct testing, assess problems, and prescribe
hearing aids when necessary. However, he recommends that people see an
ear, nose, and throat specialist before they purchase hearing equipment
to determine if an existing medical condition might be interfering with
Hearing loss equals anxiety, isolation
The stigma that accompanies hearing loss deters people from seeking
help. A study conducted by the National Council on Aging found that
people with hearing problems are more likely to experience increased
insecurity, anxiety, frustration, anger, and depression.
"You worry that if people don't know you're deaf, they'll think
you're not all there," Rick Seifert said. Often, people with
hearing loss find themselves avoiding social situations because of the
"Hearing loss isolates you," said Dr. Jeff Davis, an
otolaryngologist at Ear, Nose, & Throat Clinic of the Northwest.
"It's much easier to function if other people understand your
The majority of those with hearing loss would benefit from wearing
hearing aids. But because of the stigma attached to disabilities, many
refuse to let others know of their situation.
They'd rather endure in silence.
"You close in on yourself," said Seifert, who acknowledged
that his hearing problems created tension at home. "Diane had been
complaining about it for some time. When I didn't hear something she
said, she'd wonder if it was selective. It can cause a lot of
Davis said some people "put off dealing with the problem for
years because hearing loss is seen as an 'aging disability.' They
usually have to be motivated by someone --- a spouse who is tired of the
situation" or problems on the job.
Seifert, now 62, said his wife's frustration and his problems at work
finally pushed him to address the problem. A journalism instructor at
the University of Portland, he discovered he could not hear some of his
"I realized that I couldn't hear the women who were in the back
of the lecture hall," he said. "I told them that they needed
to speak up, but even that didn't help. I had to walk to the back of the
room to understand what they were saying."