Hearing Loss: Overcoming Resistance to Treatment

Father and son sitting on couch

The curious thing about 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—perhaps longer.

The statistics:

  • 20 percent of the US population, or 48 million individuals, have some magnitude 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 hold out, on average, 10 years after the formal diagnosis before buying hearing aids.

As a consequence, on average, out of 100 people, 20 will have hearing loss. Out of those 20, only 4 will seek treatment. And those 4 people will wait 5 to 7 years before getting a test, after which they’ll wait an additional 10 years before acquiring a hearing aid.

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

Resistance to Finding Help

If you work in the hearing care field, these numbers are quite frustrating. You’ve likely came into the industry to help people—and with modern technology you know you can—yet the vast majority of individuals won’t even attempt to improve their hearing, or for that matter, even acknowledge there’s a problem.

The question is, why do so many individuals deny their hearing loss or avoid pursuing help?

We’ve found the top explanations to be:

1. Hearing loss is progressive

Hearing loss as a rule develops in small increments over several years and isn’t recognizable at any one specific instant. For example, you’d recognize a sudden 20-decibel hearing loss, but you wouldn’t necessarily notice a year-to-year loss of 1-2 decibels over 10 years.

2. Hearing loss is partial

High-frequency hearing loss (the most prevalent form) mainly has an effect on higher frequency sounds. As a result, you might be able to hear low-frequency sounds normally, creating the impression that your hearing is normal. The problem is, speech is high-frequency, so you may think the speaker is mumbling when, in fact, hearing loss is to blame.

3. Hearing loss is invisible and pain-free

Hearing loss is very subjective: it can’t be detected by visual assessment and it’s not ordinarily accompanied by any pain or uncomfortableness. The only way to properly quantify hearing loss is with a professional hearing test (audiometry).

4. Hearing loss is not evaluated by most family physicians

Only a low percentage of family physicians consistently screen for hearing loss. Your hearing loss will probably not be noticeable in a quiet office environment, so your doctor may have no reason to even suspect hearing loss—not to mention they may not be trained in its proper assessment.

5. Hearing loss is compensated for with ease

If you have hearing loss, there are various ways to magnify sounds: you can turn-up the volume of the TV or require people to yell or repeat themselves. But not only does this approach work poorly, it also passes the stress of your hearing loss onto other people.

If people can triumph over these hurdles, they still face the stigma of hearing loss (although it’s fading), the expense of hearing aids (although it’s decreasing), and the belief that hearing aids just don’t work (completely incorrect).

With so many obstacles, it’s no wonder why so many people wait to deal with their hearing loss, if they treat it at all. But it doesn’t have to be that way…

Overcoming the Obstacles to Healthier Hearing

Here’s how you can overcome the obstacles to better hearing and help others do the same:

  1. Know the odds – hearing loss is one of the most common health issues in the United States. 20 percent of the population has hearing loss, so it’s not improbable that you may, as well.
  2. Accept your hearing loss – hearing loss is common, as are hearing aids. Millions of people in the US wear 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 sure is by obtaining a professional hearing test.
  4. Learn about hearing aids – the latest hearing aids have been verified to be effective, and with a multitude of models and styles to pick from, there’s a pair that’s right for you and your price range.

In regard to hearing aids, the Journal of the American Medical Association in a recent study analyzed three prominent hearing aid models and concluded that “each [hearing aid] circuit provided significant benefit in quiet and noisy listening situations.”

The research shows that hearing aids are 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 search for treatment, in spite of the fact that hearing aids are effective and the majority of people are satisfied with their hearing aids’ overall performance.

But what if the statistics were reversed, and 80 percent of those with hearing loss sought treatment? That would mean an additional 28 million people in the US could enjoy all of the physical, mental, and social advantages of better hearing.

Share this article 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.