It takes the average person with hearing loss 5 to 7 years before pursuing a qualified professional diagnosis, irrespective of the fact that the warning signs of hearing loss are transparent to other people. But are those with hearing loss merely too stubborn to get help? No, actually, and for a few different reasons.

Maybe you know someone with hearing loss who either denies the condition or declines to seek professional help, and despite the fact that this is without a doubt frustrating, it is very conceivable that the warning signs of hearing loss are much more apparent to you than they are to them.

Here are the reasons why:

1. Hearing loss is gradual

In most examples, hearing loss develops so slowly that the afflicted individual simply doesn’t notice the change. While you would become aware of an immediate change from normal hearing to a 25 decibel hearing loss (described as moderate hearing loss), you wouldn’t detect the minor change of a 1-2 decibel loss.

So a gradual loss of 1-2 decibels over 10-20 years, while resulting in a 20-40 total decibel loss, is not going to be perceptible at any given moment in time for those impacted. That’s why friends and family members are nearly always the first to recognize hearing loss.

2. Hearing loss is often partial (high-frequency only)

The majority of hearing loss examples are categorized as high-frequency hearing loss, indicating that the affected person can still hear low-frequency background sounds normally. Whereas speech, which is a high-frequency sound, is difficult for those with hearing loss to comprehend, other sounds can usually be heard normally. This is why it’s commonplace for those with hearing loss to claim, “my hearing is fine, everyone else mumbles.”

3. Hearing loss is not assessed by the family doctor

People struggling with hearing loss can get a mistaken sense of well-being following their yearly physical. It’s typical to hear people state “if I had hearing loss, my doctor would have told me.”

This is of course not true because only 14% of physicians regularly test for hearing loss during the course of the yearly checkup. Not to mention that the primary symptom for the majority of cases of hearing loss — trouble understanding speech in the presence of background noise — will not present itself in a quiet office environment.

4. The burden of hearing loss can be shared or passed on to others

How do you treat hearing loss when there’s no cure? The solution is simple: amplify sounds. The problem is, even though hearing aids are the most effective at amplifying sounds, they are not the only way to accomplish it — which people with hearing loss quickly discover.

Those with hearing loss regularly crank up the volume on everything, to the detriment of those around them. Television sets and radios are played exceptionally loud and people are made to either shout or repeat themselves. The individual with hearing loss can manage just fine with this technique, but only by transferring the burden to friends, family members, and co-workers.

5. Hearing loss is pain-free and invisible

Hearing loss is mainly subjective: it cannot be diagnosed by visual evaluation and it generally is not accompanied by any pain or discomfort. If those with hearing loss do not perceive a problem, mostly because of the reasons above, then they more than likely won’t take action.

The only method to accurately diagnose hearing loss is through audiometry, which will calculate the specific decibel level hearing loss at several sound frequencies. This is the only method to objectively determine whether hearing loss is present, but the tricky part is needless to say getting to that point.

How to approach those with hearing loss

Hopefully, this entry has established some empathy. It is always exasperating when someone with hearing loss refuses to recognize the problem, but keep in mind, they may legitimately not recognize the severity of the problem. As an alternative to demanding that they get their hearing tested, a more effective approach may be to educate them on the elements of hearing loss that make the condition essentially invisible.