Hearing health has come a long way in the last 10 years, yet there are still a lot of misconceptions about hearing loss.
If you recognize your school of thought when you read any of these myths, it’s time to change your perspective. There’s no reason misconceptions should stand in the way of hearing your best and living your best life.
Hearing loss affects only “old people” and is merely a sign of aging
Approximately 48 million Americans report some degree of hearing loss and most are between the ages of 18 and 65. Additionally, hearing loss occurs in five out of every 1,000 newborns each year in the United States. Hearing loss can be caused by any number of factors: ototoxic medication, environmental factors, disease or genetics and in some cases, the cause of hearing loss is simply unknown. The fact is hearing loss does not discriminate, it affects all age groups.
I would know if I had hearing loss
You are likely to notice, eventually, if the problem is getting worse. However, because hearing loss often occurs slowly over many years, it can be easy to grow accustomed to a poor level of hearing. Friends and family may be the first people to point out your reduced hearing. You may be compensating for your hearing loss by lip reading in noisy situations and turning up the volume on your TV or radio. You may believe other people are mumbling and may also have difficulty understanding conversations in groups of people when there is a lot of background noise.
If I had a hearing loss, my family doctor would have told me
Your doctor relies on you to bring any health problems to light just as much as you rely on your doctor to do the same. Since your general practitioner is only so well-versed in specific areas of the body, you should have your hearing checked routinely by an Audiologist, just as you have your vision checked by an Ophthalmologist or your teeth cleaned by a Dentist.
Audiologists are Doctors of Audiology and are specifically educated and trained to administer a comprehensive hearing exam, diagnose hearing loss and prescribe treatment. If you notice your hearing has diminished, contact an Audiologist and make an appointment. At the very least, you will have established a relationship with someone you trust who now has a baseline of how well you hear. If you visit them annually, just like you do your primary care physician, they’ll be able to detect any hearing loss as it occurs.
Only people with serious hearing loss need treatment
It is important to get your hearing tested to detect all degrees of hearing loss. Even mild hearing loss can make it more difficult to communicate with your co-workers, family and friends. However, many people are reluctant to seek treatment for their hearing due to the embarrassment if they do indeed have some type of hearing loss.
The treatment your Audiologist recommends will depend on the type and degree of your hearing loss, as well as your lifestyle and listening environments. With modern advances in technology, nearly 95% of people with hearing loss can be helped with hearing technology.
If you can hear some sound, it’s ok to wait to seek treatment
The longer you wait, the harder it is to treat your hearing loss. That's because the auditory system in your brain isn't stimulated, and so the brain stops recognizing sound. Fortunately, our brains can "relearn" to hear, thanks to neuroplasticity — the recent finding that the brain can reprogram itself into very old age with the proper stimulation. Practically speaking, that means you must teach your brain to hear again, by wearing the hearing technology regularly. Again, an annual test is important to monitor for any changes.
Hearing loss is annoying, but it doesn’t really affect your health
New research from Johns Hopkins University shows that hearing loss may increase your risk of developing dementia. The upside is that research also shows you can improve memory and mood by correcting the hearing loss.
You can save time and money by buying hearing aids off the shelf, online or by mail order
Consumer information from the Federal Trade Commission warns consumers that “buying a hearing aid off the shelf, online or through the mail, is extremely risky.” In fact, some states are currently passing laws to prevent hearing technology to be sold this way. That’s because an aid needs to be custom fitted and tested to be sure it’s working properly. By working with an audiologist, you are purchasing professional care and services to ensure that the correct hearing aid is selected, and that proper programming of the hearing aid is completed. Hearing aids are not “one size fits all”.