Hearing Loss: Overcoming the Obstacles to Treatment

Father and son sitting on couch

The intriguing thing regarding hearing loss is that, statistically, if you have it, you more than likely won’t acknowledge it or seek out treatment for at minimum five to seven years—possibly longer.

The statistics:

  • 20 percent of the US population, or 48 million people, have some amount of hearing loss.
  • Of those with hearing loss, only 20 percent will seek treatment.
  • Of those who do seek out treatment, they’ll procrastinate 5 to 7 years prior to getting a hearing test.
  • Of those that get a hearing test, they’ll wait, on average, 10 years after the official diagnosis prior to obtaining hearing aids.

That means, on average, out of 100 people, 20 will have some amount of hearing loss. Out of those 20, only 4 will seek treatment. And those 4 individuals will wait 5 to 7 years before getting a hearing exam, after which they’ll wait an extra 10 years before buying hearing aids.

That means, in this sample of 100 people, 16 people will forgo improved hearing indefinitely, while the 4 that do get help will have forfeited 15 years of better hearing and a better quality of life.

Resistance to Getting Help

If you work in the hearing care industry, these statistics are disheartening. You’ve most likely entered the industry to help people—and with modern technology you know you can—yet the majority of people won’t even attempt to improve their hearing, or for that matter, even admit there’s a problem.

The question is, why do millions of individuals across the United States deny their hearing loss or avoid pursuing help?

In our experience, we’ve discovered the most common factors to be:

1. Hearing loss is progressive

Hearing loss normally develops in small increments over many years and isn’t evident at any one specific instant. For instance, you’d notice an instant 20-decibel hearing loss, but you wouldn’t notice a yearly loss of 1-2 decibels over 10 years.

2. Hearing loss is partial

High-frequency hearing loss (the most widespread type) principally affects higher frequency sounds. That suggests you might be able to hear low-frequency sounds normally, creating the feeling that your hearing is healthy. The trouble is, speech is high-frequency, so you may believe the speaker is mumbling when, in reality, hearing loss is to blame.

3. Hearing loss is painless and invisible

Hearing loss is subjective: it can’t be diagnosed by visual examination and it’s not normally accompanied by any pain or discomfort. The only method to properly measure hearing loss is with a professional hearing test (audiometry).

4. Hearing loss is not considered by the majority of family health practitioners

Only a small percentage of family physicians routinely screen for hearing loss. Your hearing loss will probably not be noticeable in a silent office atmosphere, so your doctor may have no reason at all to even suspect hearing loss—not to mention they may not be trained in its proper assessment.

5. Hearing loss is easily compensated for

If you have hearing loss, there are different ways to magnify sounds: you can turn-up the volume of the TV or compel people to yell or repeat themselves. But not only does this approach work poorly, it also transmits the burden of your hearing loss onto others.

If people can prevail over these obstacles, they still face the stigma of hearing loss (although it’s fading), the expense of hearing aids (although it’s falling), and the perception that hearing aids just don’t work (completely erroneous).

With so many barriers, it’s no surprise why so many people wait to deal with their hearing loss, if they choose to deal with it at all. But it doesn’t need to be that way…

Overcoming the Roadblocks to Healthier Hearing

Here’s how you can overcome the barriers to better hearing and help other people do the same:

  1. Understand the odds – hearing loss is among the most widespread health problems in the United States. 20 percent of the population has hearing loss, so it’s not improbable that you may, too.
  2. 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.
  3. Get a hearing test – hearing loss is hard to recognize and easy to deny. The only way to know for certain is by obtaining a professional hearing test.
  4. Learn about hearing aids – the latest hearing aids have been shown to be effective, and with a multitude of 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 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 highly effective, but what do hearing aid users have to say? As reported by 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 search for treatment, in spite of the fact that hearing aids are effective and most people are satisfied with their hearing aids’ all-around performance.

But what if the statistics were reversed, 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 obtain all of the physical, mental, and social advantages of better hearing.

Share this post and help reverse the trend.

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.