MYTHS ABOUT HEARING LOSS
Sergei Kochkin, Ph.D. – Better Hearing Institute, Washington, DC
I’ll have some minor surgery like my friend did and then my hearing will be O.K.
Many people know someone whose hearing improved after medical or surgical treatment. It’s true that some types of hearing loss can be successfully treated. With adults, unfortunately, this only applies to 5 to 10 percent of cases.
I have one ear that’s down a little, but the other one is O.K.
Everything is relative. Nearly all patients who believe that they have one “good” ear actually have two “bad” ears. When one ear is slightly better than the other we tend to favor that ear for the telephone, group conversations, and so forth. It can give the illusion that “the better ear” is normal when it isn’t. Most types of hearing loss affect both ears fairly equally, and about 90 percent of patients are in need of hearing aids for both ears.
Hearing loss affects only “old people” and is merely a sign of aging.
Only 35 percent of people with hearing loss are older than age 64. There are close to six million people in the U.S. between the ages of 18 and 44 with hearing loss, and more than one million are school-aged children. Hearing loss affects all age groups.
If I had a hearing loss my doctor would have told me.
Not true! Only 14 percent of physicians routinely screen for hearing loss during a physical. Since most people with hearing impairments hear well in a quiet environment like a doctor’s office, it can be virtually impossible for your physician to recognize the extent of your problem. Without special training, and an understanding of the nature of hearing loss, it may be difficult for your doctor to even realize that you have a hearing problem.
My hearing loss is normal for my age.
Isn’t this a strange way to look at things? Unfortunately well-meaning doctors tell this to their patients every day. It happens to be “normal” for overweight people to have high blood pressure. That doesn’t mean that they should not receive treatment for the problem.
Your hearing loss cannot be helped.
In the past many people with hearing loss in one ear, with a high frequency hearing loss, or with nerve damage, have been told that they cannot be helped — often by their family practice physician. This might have been true many years ago, but with modern advances in technology, nearly 95% of people with a sensorineural hearing loss can be helped with hearing aids.
The consequences of hiding hearing loss are better than wearing hearing aids.
What price are you paying for vanity? Untreated hearing loss is more noticeable than hearing aids. If you miss a punch line to a joke, or respond inappropriately in conversation, people have concerns about your mental acuity, your attention span or your ability to communicate effectively. The personal consequences of vanity can be life-altering. At a simplistic level, untreated hearing loss means giving up some of the pleasant sounds you used to enjoy. At a deeper level, vanity could severely reduce the quality of your life.
Only people with serious hearing loss need hearing aids.
The need for hearing amplification is dependent on your lifestyle, your need for refined hearing, and the degree of your hearing loss. If you are a lawyer, teacher or a group psychotherapist, where very refined hearing is necessary to discern the nuances of human communication, then even a mild hearing loss can be intolerable. If you live in a rural area by yourself and seldom socialize with others, then perhaps you are someone who may be tolerant of even moderate hearing loss.
Hearing aids will make me look “older” and “handicapped.”
Looking older is clearly more affected by almost all other factors besides hearing aids. It is not the hearing aids that make one look older, it is what one may believe they imply. If hearing aids help you function like a normal hearing person, for all intents and purposes, the stigma is removed. Hearing aid manufacturers are well aware that cosmetics is an issue to many people and that’s why today we have hearing aids that fit totally within the ear canal. This CIC (completely in canal) style of hearing aid has enough power and special features to satisfy most individuals with hearing impairment. But more importantly, keep in mind that “an untreated hearing loss is more obvious than a hearing aid.” Smiling and nodding your head when you don’t understand what’s being said, makes your condition more apparent than the largest hearing aid.
Hearing aids will make everything sound too loud.
Hearing aids are sophisticated amplifiers. At one time the way they were designed made it necessary to turn up the power in order to hear soft speech. Then normal conversation would, indeed, have been too loud. With today’s technically superior hearing aids, however, the circuits work automatically providing only the amount of amplification you require. In fact, most newer hearing aids do not have a volume control.
I am concerned about the integrity of hearing health professionals and the value of hearing aids.
Rest assured in our research at the Better Hearing Institute with thousands of people like you we found that hearing healthcare professionals received customer satisfaction ratings of 92 percent. Nine out of ten people indicated that the quality of their life has improved with hearing aids. Overall satisfaction with one-year-old hearing aids is now 78 percent which is close to the satisfaction ratings for most consumer electronics.