Hearing Loss: Overcoming the Obstacles to Treatment
The interesting thing regarding hearing loss is that, statistically, if you have it, you most likely won’t acknowledge it or seek treatment for at minimum five to seven years—perhaps longer.
- 20 percent of the US population, or 48 million individuals, have some degree 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 obtaining a hearing test.
- Of those that get a hearing test, they’ll delay, on average, 10 years after the established diagnosis prior to purchasing hearing aids.
This means, on average, out of 100 people, 20 will have hearing loss. Out of those 20, only 4 will seek treatment. And those 4 individuals will wait 5 to 7 years before obtaining a hearing assessment, after which they’ll wait an extra 10 years before purchasing a hearing aid.
As a result,, in this sample of 100 people, 16 people will forgo improved hearing indefinitely, while the 4 that seek treatment will have sacrificed 15 years of better hearing and a better standard of living.
Resistance to Getting Help
If you work in the hearing care profession, these numbers are quite frustrating. You’ve likely joined the profession to help people—and with modern technology you know you can—yet the vast majority of individuals won’t even try to improve their hearing, or for that matter, even acknowledge there’s a problem.
The question is, why do millions of people across the US deny their hearing loss or abstain from seeking help?
We’ve identified the top factors to be:
1. Hearing loss is gradual
Hearing loss usually develops in minor increments over many years and isn’t obvious at any one instant. For instance, you’d become aware of a sudden 20-decibel hearing loss, but you wouldn’t necessarily perceive a yearly loss of 1-2 decibels over 10 years.
2. Hearing loss is partial
High-frequency hearing loss (the most typical type) primarily has an effect on higher frequency sounds. That means you may be able to hear low-frequency sounds normally, producing the feeling that your hearing is healthy. The problem is, speech is high-frequency, so you may suspect that the speaker is mumbling when, in fact, hearing loss is to blame.
3. Hearing loss is pain-free and invisible
Hearing loss is subjective: it can’t be detected by visual assessment 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 assessed by most family health practitioners
Only a low percentage of family physicians consistently screen for hearing loss. Your hearing loss will probably not be noticeable in a tranquil office atmosphere, so your doctor may have no reason 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 other methods to boost sounds: you can crank-up the volume of the TV or require people to shout or repeat themselves. But not only does this approach work poorly, it also shifts the stress of your hearing loss onto other people.
If people can surmount these barriers, they still face the stigma of hearing loss (although it’s diminishing), the price of hearing aids (although it’s dropping), and the perception that hearing aids simply don’t work (completely incorrect).
With so many obstacles, it’s no wonder why so many individuals wait to treat their hearing loss, if they treat it at all. But it doesn’t need to be that way…
Overcoming the Barriers to Better Hearing
Here’s how you can overcome the barriers to better hearing and help others do the same:
- Understand the odds – hearing loss is among the most prevalent health issues in the US. 20 percent of the population has hearing loss, so it’s not improbable that you may, too.
- Accept your hearing loss – hearing loss is common, and so are hearing aids. Millions of people in the US use hearing aids and most 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 – contemporary hearing aids have been verified to be effective, and with a variety of models and styles, there’s a pair that’s right for you and your budget.
In regard to hearing aids, the Journal of the American Medical Association in a recent study tested 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 highly 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
To summarize, of those with hearing loss, only 20 percent will seek treatment, in spite of the fact that hearing aids are effective and most people are satisfied with their hearing aids’ overall 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 experience all of the physical, mental, and social advantages of better hearing.
Share this article and help reverse the trend.