For years, stigma has been attached to hearing loss. While it would be impossible to rewrite our society’s view of this disability and its treatment options, it is my hope that this brief article may change your personal view on the subject by considering 5 common misconceptions about hearing loss.
1 - Only the elderly suffer from hearing loss.
It is true that age induced hearing loss makes up a significant amount of the estimated 31.5 million hearing impaired in the United States, however; according to recent research by the Better Hearing Institute, as much as 65% of hearing impaired Americans are under age sixty-five. Hearing loss among the young has been rising over recent generations due to increased noise exposure. In fact, hearing loss has increased so much among America's youth that the hearing aid industry has been striving diligently to accommodate their needs with solutions that are Bluetooth compatible, invisible, automatic, and low maintenance as this new generation of hearing impaired do not want to be bothered by their disability but want simple, highly functional solutions that enable them to easily communicate without embarrassment.
2 - Hearing loss is not a disability.
This is an extremely prevalent misconception. Many people refuse to acknowledge their hearing loss, fearing it may cause them to be seen as weak or old. However, research shows that untreated hearing loss leads to negative social, psychological, cognitive, and health effects. In addition, research shows that untreated hearing loss lowers average household income, on-average, by up to $12,000 per year.
3 - I should put off seeking treatment as long as possible.
Simply put this is one of the most backwards concepts among the hearing impaired. Many people feel they should put off treatment as long as possible. The fact is: the sooner someone has sounds restored to a volume they can hear, the more likely they are to do well with amplification and rehabilitation. However, the average hearing impaired person waits ten years before seeking treatment, and only one in five hearing impaired persons ultimately decides to treat their hearing loss. I urge anyone who thinks that treatment would be bothersome or obtrusive to seek treatment so that you can make an informed decision about your hearing loss, instead of simply putting it off.
4 - My hearing loss can be treated with surgery.
While this perception is true for five to ten percent of the hearing impaired, it is an exception to the rule. A simple test can determine whether you may have a medically correctable type of hearing loss. Again, if you feel your hearing loss may be medically correctable, you can start by having your hearing evaluated at an ENT (Otolaryngologist) practice. Many people also feel that their family doctor would have told them if they had hearing loss, but only thirteen percent of family physicians routinely screen for hearing loss.
5 - Buying hearing aids will restore my hearing to normal.
Unfortunately, after the brain lacks stimulation from the hearing nerves, those portions of the brain begin to atrophy. With consistent use of amplification, some understanding can be rehabilitated, however; no hearing instruments or rehab program can restore perfect hearing. Therefore, it is important to find a hearing care professional that will do more than just sell you a set of hearing aids. You need a professional who will thoroughly evaluate your hearing and medical history, refer you to an Otolaryngologist for possible medically treatable hearing loss, consider your lifestyle and hearing loss in order to determine the best treatment plan, guide you through the entire process, and ultimately allow you ample time to acclimate to amplification.
Statistics and research mentioned are taken from the Better Hearing Institute. BHI is a not-for-profit corporation that educates the public about the neglected problem of hearing loss and what can be done about it. Find them at www.betterhearing.org.
Article Written By
Caleb Rhodes, HIS
Caleb Rhodes studied with Western Kentucky Technical and Community College and Parkland College in Champaign Illinois with a focus on hearing instrument sciences. He began assisting the hearing impaired in 2003 and is licensed as a hearing instrument specialist in Kentucky and Illinois.