It takes the average person with hearing loss 5 to 7 years before seeking a qualified professional diagnosis, despite the reality that the signs and symptoms of hearing loss are very clear to other people. But are those with hearing loss simply too stubborn to get help? No, actually, and for a couple of specific reasons.

Perhaps you know someone with hearing loss who either denies the difficulties or declines to seek professional help, and although this is undoubtedly frustrating, it is very conceivable that the indications of hearing loss are much more clear to you than they are to them.

Here are the reasons why:

1. Hearing loss is gradual

In most occurrences, hearing loss comes about so slowly and gradually that the affected person simply doesn’t experience the change. While you would perceive an rapid change from normal hearing to a 25 decibel hearing loss (characterized as moderate hearing loss), you wouldn’t perceive the modest change of a 1-2 decibel loss.

So a slow loss of 1-2 decibels over the course of 10-20 years, while causing a 20-40 total decibel loss, is not going to be noticeable at any given moment in time for those afflicted. That’s why friends and family are almost always the first to observe hearing loss.

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

The majority of hearing loss scenarios are categorized as high-frequency hearing loss, meaning that the afflicted individual can still hear low-frequency background sounds normally. While speech, which is a high-frequency sound, is challenging for those with hearing loss to follow, other sounds can usually be heard normally. This is why it’s typical for those with hearing loss to say, “my hearing is fine, everyone else mumbles.”

3. Hearing loss is not addressed by the family doctor

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

This is of course not true because only 14% of physicians regularly screen for hearing loss during the annual checkup. Not to mention that the prime symptom for the majority of cases of hearing loss — trouble comprehending speech in the presence of background noise — will not present itself in a tranquil office atmosphere.

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

How do you manage hearing loss when there’s no cure? The solution is simple: amplify sounds. The issue is, even though hearing aids are the most effective at amplifying sounds, they are not the only way to accomplish it — which individuals with hearing loss rapidly find out.

Those with hearing loss commonly crank up the volume on everything, to the detriment of those around them. Television sets and radios are played exceedingly loud and people are made to either shout or repeat themselves. The individual with hearing loss can get by just fine with this approach, but only by passing on the burden to friends, family members, and colleagues.

5. Hearing loss is painless and invisible

Hearing loss is predominately subjective: it cannot be diagnosed by visible examination and it usually is not accompanied by any pain or discomfort. If individuals with hearing loss do not recognize a problem, mostly because of the reasons above, then they most likely won’t take action.

The only method to properly diagnose hearing loss is through audiometry, which will determine the exact decibel level hearing loss at multiple sound frequencies. This is the only way to objectively say whether hearing loss is present, but the hard part is needless to say getting to that point.

How to approach those with hearing loss

Hopefully, this article has established some empathy. It is always frustrating when someone with hearing loss refuses to admit the problem, but keep in mind, they may legitimately not fully grasp the severity of the problem. Rather than demanding that they get their hearing tested, a more reliable method may be to educate them on the components of hearing loss that make the condition practically invisible.