How’s Your Hearing… Are You the Emperor with New Clothes?

Do you ever feel like you’re not quite receiving all the messages you should be? People are talking to you but you’re not hearing them? Or maybe you’re watching TV and zoning out and then, when the programme is finished, you have no idea what you just watched? Similarly, you may have noticed that other people frequently comment that you don’t pay attention when they talk.

Mild hearing loss is something that often goes unnoticed – or at least unacknowledged – for a long time before a person takes action. It’s often such a gradual decline that it’s only after a couple of years that you might take stock of your situation and think: “Geez, maybe I’m not hearing properly.”

It reminds me of the old fable, The Emperor’s New Clothes. The jolly old Emperor is spun a fib, that the clothes the two weavers have made for him are made from the world’s finest fabric ever to grace the form of an important dignitary, but that only those of equal status are able to see them. The weavers, great scam artists of their day, simply made no clothes at all but employed theatrics to dress the Emperor with great assurance, pretending to fasten his invisible buttons, straighten his glorious invisible coat and correct his invisible lapels.

In reality, the weavers were out to make a grand fool of the Emperor and sent him out to greet his public in nothing but his undergarments. The Emperor, blissfully unaware, feels immensely proud of his spectacular outfit. He walks through the streets completely oblivious to the titters and sniggers of the crowd. All his loyal subjects know he is parading close to naked, but no one is brave enough to tell him. Some simply don’t want to offend him, others are fearful of what might happen to them if they do and still others think the whole affair is nothing more than a huge laugh.

Are you the Emperor in your life story?

What if you’re travelling through life in blissful ignorance? What if you don’t really know the extent of your hearing loss? Being such a gradual decline, it can be an issue that doesn’t bother you on a daily basis. And you don’t meet the same people every day either. One day, you might engage with the checkout operator and she has to repeat herself a couple of times. Later that same day, you might bump into an old friend who tells you what’s going on in his life but in the evening, when you go home and tell your spouse, you can barely remember what he said. A few days later, you’re having a meeting with a client in a noisy café and you notice that you’re reading his lips instead of listening to what he’s saying. “Hmm,” you think, and the penny starts to drop. You make a mental note: “We should meet in a quieter environment next time.” Meanwhile, the client has gone away wondering if you’re entirely interested in doing business with him. Of course, he doesn’t say anything to you and you’re none the wiser that he’s considering choosing someone else.

No one wants to appear rude and tell you: “Hey, I think you’re hard of hearing.” Certainly, it would be confronting if someone who is not close to you told you so. Even if a family member tries to gently let you know that they’ve noticed you zoning out instead of listening, it can be a difficult thing to process.

Treating your hearing loss, your real ‘new clothes’

One of my patients is a 51-year-old businesswoman who noticed she was lip-reading instead of properly listening. At client meetings, she would watch the other person’s mouth instead of maintaining eye contact. “I found myself doing it more and more and it was embarrassing after a while,” she says. “Eye contact is so important in communication yet there I was, looking as though I wasn’t listening, and the truth was, I was listening extra hard!

After being treating her hearing loss, my patient has discovered that communication is now easier and she can now even take notes while listening, and not have to keep her vision fixed on the person’s face. “I knew I’d been having problems hearing but I didn’t equate it to ‘hearing loss’ as such,” she explains. “I thought I was too young for hearing loss and certainly too young for hearing aids! But now that I have them and looking back, I feel as though I was really not a part of the same world everyone else was in.”

The Emperor in the fable fell victim to the invisible clothes scam because he was incredibly vain and was susceptible to his scammers’ ploys. In someone who is suffering from hearing loss, vanity is often not the issue, sometimes it’s purely a lack of awareness. It’s not your fault that you’re not aware of your hearing loss. The wonderful thing is that hearing loss can be treated; you can shake off those ‘invisible clothes’ and get back in the world and hear what everyone else is hearing.

#HearingAid #Audiologist #HearingTest #Tinnitus #CognitiveDecline #Dementia #Alzheimers

#AuditoryDeprivation #SocialIsolation #Loneliness