The Official SoundScape Weblog

The Official SoundScape Weblog

Ears to Hear

Who Pays the Cost of Hearing Loss?

     In life there are things called externalities – these are the costs people pay for someone else’s actions, or the costs we all have to pay for a few people’s actions. For example, if a company pours their untreated waste into a river it affects everyone downstream (while the company saves money), or when I drive my car that pollutes the environment it affects all of us who breathe the air. When it comes to untreated hearing loss it is not just the person with the loss who is affected by it. All those around them also pay a price for that persons hearing loss. They all bear the cost – some more than others.


     It may cost frustration; it may be anger. It may be a loss of friendship, or not being able to enjoy social activities together. Some people are even pushed into the role of being the ears for the person with loss – having to constantly repeat what other people say. This can be very stressful and draining.


     We need to acknowledge the cost untreated hearing loss has on others. Learn to recognize how someone else’s hearing loss is affecting you. Or, if you are the one with the hearing loss, recognize how your actions are affecting others and ask yourself if it is fair to ask someone else pay the emotional and social cost of your hearing loss. I know hearing aids aren’t cheap, but there are many options including options for those who truly can’t afford hearing aids. It’s about priorities. If a person doesn’t value their hearing as much as they value other things, they shouldn’t ask others to pay the costs.


     If you know someone who has a hearing loss and you want them to do something about that loss, there is one thing you can do which can be very effective. Stop letting the person with the hearing loss transfer their coping with that loss to you. Don’t be their ears, don’t repeat yourself any more than you would to a person with normal hearing (remember nobody hears everything all the time so a little repetition is normal). At the very least, have a signal like “you’re having trouble hearing”, that you say to that person every time they ask you to repeat yourself, or when you are being asked to be their ears.  This may sound a bit harsh, and you need to have a decent relationship with the person to do this, but it can be a very effective way to get a person with hearing loss to understand how their refusal to seek treatment is affecting others. Often people just don’t realize how much of an impact – how much of a cost – their hearing loss is having on others.

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