The curious thing about hearing loss is that, statistically, if you have it, you more than likely won’t recognize it or seek care for at least five to seven years—possibly longer.
- 20 percent of the US population, or 48 million people, have some level of hearing loss.
- Of those with hearing loss, only 20 percent will seek out treatment.
- Of those who do seek out treatment, they’ll procrastinate 5 to 7 years before getting a hearing test.
- Of those that obtain a hearing test, they’ll wait, on average, 10 years after the established diagnosis before getting hearing aids.
So, on average, out of 100 people, 20 will have hearing loss. Out of those 20, only 4 will seek treatment. And those 4 people will wait 5 to 7 years before getting a hearing assessment, after which they’ll wait an extra 10 years before purchasing hearing aids.
That means, in this sample of 100 individuals, 16 people will forgo improved hearing indefinitely, while the 4 that do get help will have sacrificed 15 years of better hearing and a greater quality of life.
Resistance to Getting Help
If you work in the hearing care industry, these numbers are disheartening. You’ve most likely entered the profession to help people—and with modern technology you know you can—yet the majority of individuals won’t even try to enhance their hearing, or for that matter, even acknowledge there’s an issue.
The question is, why do millions of individuals across the US deny their hearing loss or avoid pursuing help?
In our experience, we’ve found the most common explanations to be:
1. Hearing loss is progressive
Hearing loss usually builds up in minor increments over several years and isn’t recognizable at any one moment in time. For instance, you’d recognize an instant 20-decibel hearing loss, but you wouldn’t perceive a yearly loss of 1-2 decibels over 10 years.
2. Hearing loss is partial
High-frequency hearing loss (the most common kind) principally impacts higher frequency sounds. As a result, you may be able to hear low-frequency sounds normally, producing the impression that your hearing is healthy. The issue is, speech is high-frequency, so you may believe the speaker is mumbling when, in fact, hearing loss is to blame.
3. Hearing loss is invisible and pain-free
Hearing loss is subjective: it can’t be detected by visual evaluation and it’s not normally accompanied by any pain or discomfort. The only method to correctly measure hearing loss is with a professional hearing test (audiometry).
4. Hearing loss is not considered by the majority of family physicians
Only a small percentage of family doctors routinely screen for hearing loss. Your hearing loss will probably not be obvious in a quiet office atmosphere, so your physician may have no reason to even suspect hearing loss—and they may not even be trained in its proper assessment.
5. Hearing loss is easily compensated for
If you have hearing loss, there are alternative ways to amplify sounds: you can turn-up the volume of the television or require people to shout or repeat themselves. But not only does this tactic work poorly, it also transmits the stress of your hearing loss onto other people.
If individuals can triumph over these obstacles, they still face the stigma of hearing loss (although it’s fading), the cost of hearing aids (although it’s falling), and the belief that hearing aids simply don’t work (entirely inaccurate).
With so many barriers, it’s no surprise why so many individuals wait to treat their hearing loss, if they deal with it at all. But it doesn’t need to be that way…
Overcoming the Barriers to Better Hearing
Here’s how you can conquer the barriers to better hearing and help others do the same:
- Understand the odds – hearing loss is one of the most predominant health conditions in the United States. 20 percent of the population has hearing loss, so it’s not unlikely that you may, as well.
- Acknowledge your hearing loss – hearing loss is common, and so are hearing aids. Millions of people in the US wear hearing aids and the majority are satisfied.
- Get a hearing exam – hearing loss is hard to recognize and easy to deny. The only way to know for certain is by getting a professional hearing exam.
- Learn about hearing aids – modern-day hearing aids have been shown to be effective, and with so many models and styles to pick from, there’s a pair that’s right for you and your budget.
Regarding hearing aids, the Journal of the American Medical Association in a recent study evaluated three prominent hearing aid models and determined that “each [hearing aid] circuit provided significant benefit in quiet and noisy listening situations.”
The research shows that hearing aids are effective, but what do hearing aid users have to say? According to the MarkeTrak consumer satisfaction survey, 78.6% were satisfied with their hearing aid performance.
Help Reverse the Statistics
In summary, of those with hearing loss, only 20 percent will search for treatment, in spite of the fact that hearing aids are effective and most people are satisfied with their performance.
But what if the statistics were flipped, and 80 percent of those with hearing loss took action and sought treatment? That would mean an additional 28 million people in the US could experience all of the physical, mental, and social advantages of better hearing.
Share this article and help reverse the trend.