Hearing Loss: Overcoming Resistance to Treatment

Father and son sitting on couch

The curious thing concerning hearing loss is that, statistically, if you have it, you most likely won’t acknowledge it or seek care for at least five to seven years—perhaps longer.

The statistics:

  • 20 percent of the US population, or 48 million people, 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 obtaining a hearing test.
  • Of those that obtain a hearing test, they’ll hold out, on average, 10 years after the official diagnosis before buying hearing aids.

As a consequence, on average, out of 100 people, 20 will have some amount of hearing loss. Out of those 20, only 4 will search for treatment. And those 4 people will wait 5 to 7 years before obtaining 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 healthier hearing indefinitely, while the 4 that seek treatment will have wasted 15 years of better hearing and a superior quality of life.

Resistance to Finding Help

If you work in the hearing care business, these statistics are demoralizing. You’ve most likely came into the profession to help people—and with modern-day technology you know you can—yet the majority of people won’t even try to improve their hearing, or for that matter, even acknowledge there’s a problem.

The question is, why do millions of people throughout the United States deny their hearing loss or abstain from seeking help?

We’ve found the top explanations to be:

1. Hearing loss is progressive

Hearing loss normally develops in small increments over many years and isn’t evident at any one particular moment in time. For instance, you’d notice a sudden 20-decibel hearing loss, but you wouldn’t notice a year-to-year loss of 1-2 decibels over 10 years.

2. Hearing loss is partial

High-frequency hearing loss (the most frequent form) mainly impacts higher frequency sounds. As a result, you may be able to hear low-frequency sounds normally, creating the feeling that your hearing is healthy. The issue is, speech is high-frequency, so you may believe the speaker is mumbling when, the truth is, hearing loss is to blame.

3. Hearing loss is painless and invisible

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

4. Hearing loss is not evaluated by most family physicians

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

5. Hearing loss is compensated for with ease

If you have hearing loss, there are alternative ways to boost sounds: you can turn-up the volume of the TV or force people to shout or repeat themselves. But not only does this strategy work poorly, it also shifts the stress of your hearing loss onto others.

If people can rise above these barriers, they still must face the stigma of hearing loss (although it’s fading), the price of hearing aids (although it’s dropping), and the perception that hearing aids simply don’t work (entirely erroneous).

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

Overcoming the Roadblocks to Better Hearing

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

  1. Understand the odds – hearing loss is among the most prevalent health conditions in the United States. 20 percent of the population has hearing loss, so it’s not improbable that you may, as well.
  2. Acknowledge your hearing loss – hearing loss is common, as 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 discern and easy to deny. The only way to know for certain is by obtaining a professional hearing exam.
  4. Learn about hearing aids – the latest hearing aids have been found to be effective, and with a multitude of models and styles to pick from, there’s a pair that’s ideal for you and your budget.

Regarding hearing aids, the Journal of the American Medical Association in a recent study analyzed 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 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

In summary, 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 performance.

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