The curious thing about hearing loss is that, statistically, if you have it, you most likely won’t acknowledge it or seek out treatment for at minimum five to seven years—maybe longer.
- 20 percent of the US population, or 48 million people, have some magnitude 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 receiving a hearing test.
- Of those that get a hearing test, they’ll wait, on average, 10 years after the established diagnosis prior to acquiring hearing aids.
That means, on average, out of 100 people, 20 will have hearing loss. Out of those 20, only 4 will search for treatment. And those 4 people will wait 5 to 7 years before obtaining a test, after which they’ll wait an additional 10 years before purchasing a hearing aid.
As a result,, in this sample of 100 individuals, 16 people will forgo improved hearing indefinitely, while the 4 that do get help will have lost 15 years of better hearing and a better standard of living.
Resistance to Finding Help
If you work in the hearing care profession, these numbers are frustrating. You’ve most likely joined the profession to help people—and with modern-day 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 a problem.
The question is, why do so many individuals across the United States deny their hearing loss or avoid seeking help?
We’ve identified the most common explanations to be:
1. Hearing loss is gradual
Hearing loss normally develops in small increments over several years and isn’t evident at any one specific instant. For instance, you’d recognize an instant 20-decibel hearing loss, but you wouldn’t notice a year-to-year loss of 1-2 decibels over 10 years.
2. Hearing loss is partial
High-frequency hearing loss (the most frequent type) mainly has an effect on higher frequency sounds. That means you might be able to hear low-frequency sounds normally, generating the feeling that your hearing is healthy. The issue is, speech is high-frequency, so you may suspect that the speaker is mumbling when, in reality, hearing loss is to blame.
3. Hearing loss is pain-free and invisible
Hearing loss is very subjective: it can’t be detected by visual examination and it’s not normally accompanied by any pain or discomfort. The only way to appropriately 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 physicians consistently screen for hearing loss. Your hearing loss will most likely not be noticeable in a quiet office environment, so your doctor may have no reason to even suspect hearing loss—not to mention they may not be trained in its proper assessment.
5. Hearing loss is compensated for with ease
If you have hearing loss, there are various ways to intensify sounds: you can turn-up the volume of the TV or force people to shout or repeat themselves. But not only does this tactic work poorly, it also shifts the stress of your hearing loss onto others.
If people can rise above these barriers, they still must confront the stigma of hearing loss (although it’s fading), the price of hearing aids (although it’s falling), and the belief that hearing aids just don’t work (completely incorrect).
With so many barriers, it’s no surprise why so many people wait to deal with their hearing loss, if they treat it at all. But it doesn’t need to be that way…
Overcoming the Roadblocks to Healthier Hearing
Here’s how you can conquer the barriers to better hearing and help other people do the same:
- Know the odds – hearing loss is among the most common 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, as are hearing aids. Millions of people in the US use hearing aids and the majority are satisfied.
- Obtain a hearing exam – hearing loss is difficult to recognize and easy to deny. The only way to know for certain is by obtaining a professional hearing test.
- Learn about hearing aids – modern hearing aids have been proven to be effective, and with so many models and styles to choose 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 researched three popular 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
Of those with hearing loss, only 20 percent will seek treatment, despite the fact that hearing aids are effective and most people are satisfied with their hearing aids’ overall 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 extra 28 million people in the US could enjoy all of the physical, mental, and social benefits of better hearing.
Share this post and help reverse the trend.