The intriguing thing about hearing loss is that, statistically, if you have it, you likely won’t acknowledge it or seek treatment for at least five to seven years—potentially longer.
- 20 percent of the US population, or 48 million individuals, 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 wait 5 to 7 years prior to getting a hearing test.
- Of those that get a hearing test, they’ll hold out, on average, 10 years after the formal diagnosis before acquiring hearing aids.
As a consequence, 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 test, after which they’ll wait an extra 10 years before purchasing hearing aids.
That means, in this sample of 100 individuals, 16 people will forfeit better 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 business, these numbers are discouraging. You’ve probably joined the profession to help people—and with contemporary technology you know you can—yet the vast majority of people won’t even try to improve their hearing, or for that matter, even acknowledge there’s an issue.
The question is, why do millions of people across the US deny their hearing loss or avoid pursuing help?
We’ve observed the top explanations to be:
1. Hearing loss is gradual
Hearing loss in most cases develops in minor increments over many years and isn’t noticeable at any one moment in time. For instance, you’d become aware of an instant 20-decibel hearing loss, but you wouldn’t necessarily perceive a year-to-year loss of 1-2 decibels over 15 years.
2. Hearing loss is partial
High-frequency hearing loss (the most typical form) principally affects higher frequency sounds. As a result, you may be able to hear low-frequency sounds normally, creating the impression that your hearing is healthy. The problem is, speech is high-frequency, so you may think the speaker is mumbling when, the truth is, hearing loss is to blame.
3. Hearing loss is invisible and painless
Hearing loss is very subjective: it can’t be discovered by visual evaluation and it’s not usually accompanied by any pain or uncomfortableness. 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 low percentage of family physicians regularly screen for hearing loss. Your hearing loss will probably not be apparent in a quiet office setting, so your physician may have no reason at all to even suspect hearing loss—and they may not even be trained in its proper evaluation.
5. Hearing loss is easily compensated for
If you have hearing loss, there are different ways to amplify sounds: you can crank-up the volume of the television or require people to yell or repeat themselves. But not only does this strategy work poorly, it also shifts the burden of your hearing loss onto others.
If individuals can overcome these hurdles, they still face the stigma of hearing loss (although it’s diminishing), the expense of hearing aids (although it’s falling), and the perception that hearing aids simply don’t work (entirely incorrect).
With so many barriers, it’s no wonder why so many people 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 Healthier Hearing
Here’s how you can conquer the obstacles to better hearing and help other people do the same:
- Understand the odds – hearing loss is one of the most prevalent health issues in the US. 20 percent of the population has hearing loss, so it’s not unlikely that you may, as well.
- Accept your hearing loss – hearing loss is common, as are hearing aids. Millions of people in the US wear hearing aids and the majority are satisfied.
- Obtain a hearing test – hearing loss is difficult to discern and easy to deny. The only way to know for certain is by obtaining a professional hearing exam.
- Learn about hearing aids – modern hearing aids have been proven to be effective, and with a multitude of models and styles, there’s a pair that’s ideal for you and your budget.
In regard to hearing aids, the Journal of the American Medical Association in a recent study examined 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
Of those with hearing loss, only 20 percent will search for treatment, despite the fact that hearing aids are effective and the majority of people are satisfied with their performance.
But what if the statistics were inverted, and 80 percent of those with hearing loss sought treatment? That would mean an additional 28 million people in the US could obtain all of the physical, mental, and social benefits of better hearing.
Share this article and help reverse the trend.