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Despite the growing prevalence, hearing loss continues to be an underrecognized health concern. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), one in eight people (age 12 and older) experience some degree of impaired hearing in the United States. Hearing loss is one of the most common health conditions people are navigating today yet, it is not widely discussed and understood. Impaired hearing can significantly impact all aspects of a person’s life. Navigating both personal and professional responsibilities can become really challenging if hearing loss is not effectively addressed.
It is important to be informed about what hearing loss is (and what it is not), especially because there are more people who are experiencing the symptoms and may not even be aware of it. There are various misconceptions people have about hearing loss and deconstructing these assumptions is critical!
1. Hearing loss only happens to older people
Hearing loss being an old people problem has to be one of the most common misconceptions. Impaired hearing is not an inevitable reality of aging, meaning that aging does not cause hearing loss. Anyone, of any age, can experience impaired hearing. There are a variety of factors that contribute to hearing loss including: existing medical conditions, family (genetic) history, and environmental exposure to loud noise.
According to the NIDCD:
- About 2 to 3 out of every 1,000 children in the U.S. are born with some degree of hearing loss in one or both ears
- Nearly 15% of adults (aged 18 and over) report some trouble hearing
These statistics reveal that people of all ages experience hearing loss making this a health concern that is relevant to everyone.
2. It’s not that big of a deal
Because hearing loss is not fatal and not necessarily visible, many assume that it’s simply not that big of a deal. But hearing loss is a medical condition that impacts the way people live on a daily basis. Hearing loss reduces a person’s ability to absorb and process speech and sound; this strains communication which is foundational to everything we do. With a reduced ability to hear, people can struggle with following conversations, hearing distinct words and sentences, frequently asking others to repeat themselves or speak loudly and/or slowly, needing to move to quieter areas to have conversations etc.
Conversations become a lot of work and can make people feel generally uncomfortable and exhausted. Fatigue and frustration can create the desire to avoid engaging with others, social gatherings, and environments with loud background noise. This can lead to people spending less time with their friends, family, and participating in the activities that they once did, which, can be harmful one’s mental and emotional health. Hearing loss, if untreated, can significantly impact a person’s general well-being and how they move through their life on a day-to-day basis.
3. Speaking loudly solves the problem
It is true that speaking in a louder, more projected tone can help people hear what you are saying. However, this is not a long-term solution. People may still struggle with the clarity of what is being communicated as the sound could still sound muffled. Also, constantly speaking loudly is not sustainable and can be a frustrating or stressful way of communicating.
4. Hearing loss is curable
Hearing loss is not curable but fortunately, there are several effective ways it is treated. Treatment often depends on the specific type and degree of hearing impairment. The most common treatment is hearing aids which are electronic devices that help absorb, amplify, and process sound. They can help a person hear significantly better, allowing people to hear sounds and speech they have not heard in quite some time
5. Hearing aids are bulky and too noticeable
Many people imagine hearing aids as these bulky, unappealing, and embarrassing devices that make hearing impairment all too noticeable. However, with the increasingly advanced technology that exists today, hearing aids, like many other electronics, have experienced serious innovation. There is a wide range of styles and features that are offered which can be highly customized to meet a person’s specific hearing needs. There are options that are small and can be custom made to fit perfectly in, or behind your ear.
Various technologies are available to help effectively enhance hearing including Bluetooth connectivity, assistive listening devices that are made for specific environments, dehumidifiers etc.