Sometimes, it seems like we enjoy to deceive ourselves. Wikipedia has an entry titled “List of common misconceptions” that consists of hundreds of widely-held but false beliefs. Yes, I know it’s Wikipedia, but take a look at the bottom of the page and you’ll see approximately 385 credible sources cited.
As an example, did you know that Thomas Edison didn’t invent the lightbulb? Or that sugar does not actually make kids hyperactive? There are a multitude of examples of beliefs that we simply assume to be accurate, but from time to time, it’s a good idea to reassess what we think we know.
For some of us, it’s time to reexamine what we think we know about hearing aids. The majority of myths and misconceptions about hearing aids are based on the issues connected with the antiquated analog hearing aid models. But seeing as the majority of hearing aids are now digital, those concerns are a thing of the past.
So how current is your hearing aid knowledge? Read below to see if any of the top 5 myths are preventing you or someone you know from getting a hearing aid.
The Top 5 Myths About Hearing Aids
Myth # 1: Hearing aids are not effective because some people have had bad experiences.
Reality: To start with, hearing aids have been proven to be highly effective. A study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association comparing the performance of three popular types of hearing aids determined that:
Each [hearing aid] circuit markedly improved speech recognition, with greater improvement observed for soft and conversationally loud speech….All 3 circuits significantly reduced the frequency of problems encountered in verbal communication….Each circuit provided significant benefit in quiet and noisy listening situations.
Additionally, since the publishing of this research, hearing aid technology has continued to get better. So the question is not whether hearing aids work — the question is whether you have the right hearing aid for your hearing loss, professionally programmed based on to your preferences by a qualified professional.
Negative experiences are probably the result of receiving the wrong hearing aid, buying hearing aids online, consulting the wrong individual, or not having the hearing aids customized and professionally programmed.
Myth # 2: Hearing aids are big, cumbersome, and unattractive.
Reality: This one is rather easy to disprove. Simply perform a quick Google image search for “attractive hearing aid designs” and you’ll discover a number of examples of sleek and colorful models from multiple manufacturers.
Also, “completely-in-the-canal” (CIC) hearing aids are available that are virtually or completely unseen when worn. The newer, stylish designs, however, compel some patients to choose the slightly larger hearing aid models to show-off the technology.
Myth # 3: Hearing aids are too expensive.
Reality: Today, some flat screen television sets with ultra-high definition curved glass retail for $8,000 or more. But this doesn’t make us say that “all TVs are too expensive.”
As with television sets, hearing aids range in cost according to functionality and features. While you may not want — or need — the top of the line hearing aids, you can without doubt find a pair that fits your needs, preferences, and finances. Also take into account that, as is the case with all consumer electronics, hearing aids are becoming more affordable every year, and that the value of healthier hearing and a better life is almost always well worth the cost.
Myth # 4: You can save time and money buying hearing aids online.
Reality: Remember myth # 1 that asserted that hearing aids are not effective? Well, it was very likely brought about by by this myth. Like we said before, hearing aids have been proven to be effective, but the one caution to that statement has always been that hearing aids have to be programmed by a professional to assure performance.
You wouldn’t dare purchase a pair of prescription glasses online without contacting your eye doctor because your glasses need to be individualized according to the unique attributes of your vision loss. Buying hearing aids is exactly the same.
Yes, visiting a hearing specialist is more expensive, but consider what you get for the price: you can be certain that you get the right hearing aid with the right fitting and settings, together with follow-up care, adjustments, cleanings, instructions, repair services, and more. It’s well worth it.
Myth # 5: Hearing aids are uncomfortable and confusing to operate.
Reality: If this makes reference to analog hearing aids, then yes, it is largely true. The thing is, almost all hearing aids are now digital.
Digital hearing aids dynamically process sound with a small computer chip so that you don’t have to be concerned about manual adjustments; in addition, some digital hearing aids can even be operated through your smartphone. The bottom line: digital hearing aids are being designed with optimum ease-of-use in mind.
Your hearing specialist can also produce a custom mold for your hearing aids, providing a comfortable and correct fit. While a one-size-fits all hearing aid will likely be uncomfortable, a custom-fit hearing aid conforms to the contours of your ear.
You have just concluded your hearing test. The hearing specialist is now coming into the room and presents you with a chart, like the one above, except that it has all of these signs, colors, and lines. This is designed to demonstrate to you the exact, mathematically precise properties of your hearing loss, but to you it may as well be written in Greek.
The audiogram contributes confusion and complexity at a time when you’re supposed to be focusing on how to enhance your hearing. But don’t let it fool you — just because the audiogram looks perplexing doesn’t mean that it’s difficult to grasp.
After reading through this article, and with a little vocabulary and a few basic concepts, you’ll be reading audiograms like a seasoned professional, so that you can focus on what really counts: better hearing.
Some advice: as you read the article, reference the above blank audiogram. This will make it much easier to comprehend, and we’ll tackle all of those cryptic markings the hearing specialist adds later.
Understanding Sound Frequencies and Decibels
The audiogram is really just a diagram that records sound volume on the vertical axis and sound frequency on the horizontal axis. (are you having flashbacks to high school geometry class yet?) Yes, there’s more to it, but at a fundamental level it’s just a chart graphing two variables, as follows:
The vertical axis records sound intensity or volume, measured in decibels (dB). As you move up the axis, the sound volume decreases. So the top line, at 0 decibels, is a very soft, faint sound. As you move down the line, the decibel levels increase, representing progressively louder sounds until you get to 100 dB.
The horizontal axis records sound frequency, measured in Hertz (Hz). Beginning at the top left of the graph, you will see a low frequency of 125 or 250 Hz. As you proceed along the horizontal axis to the right, the frequency will steadily increase until it gets to 8,000 Hz. Vowel sounds of speech are typically low frequency sounds, while consonant sounds of speech are high frequency sounds.
So, if you were to start at the top left corner of the graph and sketch a diagonal line to the bottom right corner, you would be increasing the frequency of sound (switching from vowel sounds to consonant sounds) while increasing the level of sound (moving from fainter to louder volume).
Testing Hearing and Marking Up the Audiogram
So, what’s with all the markings you normally see on this simple graph?
Simple. Start off at the top left corner of the graph, at the lowest frequency (125 Hz). Your hearing consultant will present you with a sound at this frequency through headsets, starting with the smallest volume decibel level. If you can hear it at the lowest level (0 decibels), a mark is created at the junction of 125 Hz and 0 decibels. If you can’t perceive the 125 Hz sound at 0 decibels, the sound will be provided again at the next loudest decibel level (10 decibels). If you can hear it at 10 decibels, a mark is made. If not, continue on to 15 decibels, and so on.
This equivalent procedure is done again for each frequency as the hearing specialist moves along the horizontal frequency axis. A mark is produced at the lowest perceivable decibel level you can perceive for each sound frequency.
In terms of the other symbols? If you see two lines, one is for the left ear (the blue line) and one is for the right ear (the red line: red is for right). An X is generally used to mark the points for the left ear; an O is used for the right ear. You may discover some other characters, but these are less critical for your basic understanding.
What Normal Hearing Looks Like
So what is considered to be normal hearing, and what would that look like on the audiogram?
Individuals with regular hearing should be able to perceive every sound frequency level (125 to 8000 Hz) at 0-25 decibels. What might this look like on the audiogram?
Just take the empty graph, locate 25 decibels on the vertical axis, and sketch a horizontal line completely across. Any mark made underneath this line may indicate hearing loss. If you can hear all frequencies below this line (25 decibels or higher), then you most likely have normal hearing.
If, on the other hand, you can’t perceive the sound of a specified frequency at 0-25 dB, you likely have some type of hearing loss. The smallest decibel level at which you can perceive sound at that frequency establishes the tier of your hearing loss.
As an example, consider the 1,000 Hertz frequency. If you can perceive this frequency at 0-25 decibels, you have normal hearing for this frequency. If the smallest decibel level at which you can perceive this frequency is 40 decibels, for example, then you have moderate hearing loss at this frequency.
As a summary, here are the decibel levels connected with normal hearing along with the levels linked with mild, moderate, severe, and profound hearing loss:
Normal hearing: 0-25 dB
Mild hearing loss: 20-40 dB
Moderate hearing loss: 40-70 dB
Severe hearing loss: 70-90 dB
Profound hearing loss: 90+ dB
What Hearing Loss Looks Like
So what might an audiogram with indications of hearing loss look like? Seeing that many instances of hearing loss are in the higher frequencies (referred to as — you guessed it — high-frequency hearing loss), the audiogram would have a downwards sloping line from the top left corner of the graph slanting downward horizontally to the right.
This signifies that at the higher-frequencies, it takes a increasingly louder decibel level for you to perceive the sound. And, since higher-frequency sounds are linked with the consonant sounds of speech, high-frequency hearing loss weakens your ability to comprehend and follow conversations.
There are a few other, less common patterns of hearing loss that can appear on the audiogram, but that’s probably too much detail for this article.
Testing Your New Knowledge
You now know the basics of how to read an audiogram. So go ahead, book that hearing test and surprise your hearing specialist with your newfound talents. And just imagine the look on their face when you tell them all about your high frequency hearing loss before they even say a word.
We don’t need to explain to you the signs of hearing loss; you already know them all too well. You have a completely different type of problem: persuading someone you care about to get their hearing tested and treated.
But just how are you expected to get through to someone who denies there is even an issue, or that merely shrugs it off as “just part of getting old”?
It turns out that it’s not as simplistic as just telling them that they need their hearing tested. They will not understand the need, and you won’t get very far with threats, ultimatums, or other coercive methods.
Even though it may seem like an impossible scenario, there are other, more discreet techniques you can use. In fact, you can tap into the enormous body of social scientific research that signifies which methods of persuasion have been discovered to be the most consistently successful.
In other words, you can use tested, researched, and confirmed persuasive strategies that have been shown to actually work. It’s worth an attempt, right? And browsing the techniques might allow you to think of additional ideas.
With that said, the following are 6 scientifically tested techniques of persuasion and how you might use them to persuade a friend or family member to get their hearing tested:
What it is:
The principle of reciprocity is very simple: if someone does a favor for you, you’re powerfully motivated to return the favor for them.
How to use it:
Timing is everything. You plan on asking your loved one to get their hearing checked at some point anyway, so why not make the request soon after you’ve done something special for them?
2. Commitment and Consistency
What it is:
We all have a deep psychological desire to think and behave consistently.
How to use it:
The trick is to begin with small commitments in advance of making the final request. If you start by ordering your loved one to get a hearing test, you most likely won’t see much success.
Rather, ease into the topic by casually sharing an article on hearing loss and how universal it is. Without mentioning their own hearing loss, get them to disclose that hearing loss is a more prominent issue than they had assumed.
As soon as they concede to a few basic facts, it may be easier to talk about their own specific hearing loss, and they may be more likely to confess that they have a problem.
3. Social Proof
What it is:
We are inclined to think in terms of “safety in numbers.” We tend to conform to the crowd, and we assume that if a lot of other people are doing something, it must be trusted or effective.
How to use it:
There are at least two ways to use this technique. One way is to share articles on the many advantages of wearing hearing aids and how hearing aids heighten the quality of life for millions of people in the U.S. and across the globe.
The second way to use the method is to set up a hearing test for yourself. Explain to your loved one that you want to check on the health of your own hearing, but that you would feel better if they went with you and had their own examination.
What it is:
You’re more likely to be persuaded by those you personally like than by either a stranger or by someone you dislike.
How to use it:
Solicit the help of those you know your loved one likes or respects. Attempt to find that one particular person whom your loved one consistently seems to respond to, and have that person discuss and recommend a hearing test.
What it is:
We tend to listen to and respect the viewpoints of those we think of as authority figures.
How to use it:
Share articles on how celebrities, professional athletes, and other notable figures use and benefit from hearing aids. You can also share articles from credible sources that describe the advantages of getting your hearing tested. For example, the World Health Organization recently published an article titled “1.1 billion people at risk of hearing loss.”
What it is:
Scarcity generates a sense of urgency when what we want is perceived as limited or in short supply. Scarcity creates the perception that, if we don’t act right away, we may lose something forever.
How to use it:
The latest research has coupled hearing loss to a large number of dangerous conditions, including Alzheimer’s Disease, dementia, memory impairment, and accelerated cognitive decline. Hearing loss also gets worse over the years, so the sooner it’s corrected, the better.
To apply scarcity, share articles, such as our earlier blog post titled 8 reasons hearing loss is more dangerous than you think, with your loved one. Show them that every day spent with untreated hearing loss exacerbates the hearing loss, degrades health, and heightens the risk of developing more dangerous conditions.
If all else fails, just give it to them straight. Tell your loved ones how their hearing loss impacts you, along with how it’s affecting your relationship. When you make it about your needs and feelings rather than theirs, the reaction is usually better.
Have you had success persuading someone to have their hearing tested? Let us know your methods in a comment.
The six principles of persuasion were developed by Dr. Robert Cialdini, and can be found in his book titled “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.”
It takes the average person with hearing loss 5 to 7 years before seeking a qualified professional diagnosis, irrespective of the reality that the signs and symptoms of hearing loss are very clear to others. But are those with hearing loss simply too stubborn to get help? No, actually, and for a few different reasons.
Maybe you know someone with hearing loss who either denies the concern or declines to seek out professional help, and while this is undoubtedly frustrating, it is very conceivable that the indicators of hearing loss are much more apparent to you than they are to them.
Here are the reasons why:
1. Hearing loss is gradual
In the majority of occurrences, hearing loss comes about so gradually over time that the affected individual simply doesn’t detect the change. While you would become aware of an immediate change from normal hearing to a 25 decibel hearing loss (specified as moderate hearing loss), you wouldn’t notice the minuscule change of a 1-2 decibel loss.
So a gradual loss of 1-2 decibels over the course of 10-20 years, while causing a 20-40 total decibel loss, is not going to be perceptible at any given moment in time for those afflicted. That’s why friends and family are nearly always the first to observe hearing loss.
2. Hearing loss is often partial (high-frequency only)
The majority of hearing loss examples are categorized as high-frequency hearing loss, indicating that the impacted person can still hear low-frequency background sounds normally. Even though speech, which is a high-frequency sound, is difficult for those with hearing loss to understand, other sounds can usually be heard normally. This is why it’s not uncommon for those with hearing loss to state, “my hearing is fine, everyone else mumbles.”
3. Hearing loss is not attended to by the family doctor
Individuals suffering with hearing loss can obtain a false sense of well-being following their yearly physical. It’s quite common to hear people say “if I had hearing loss, my doctor would have told me.”
This is of course not true because only 14% of physicians consistently screen for hearing loss during the annual checkup. Not to mention that the prime symptom for most cases of hearing loss — trouble comprehending speech in the presence of background noise — will not present itself in a calm office atmosphere.
4. The burden of hearing loss can be shared or passed on to others
How do you remedy hearing loss when there’s no cure? The solution is simple: amplify sounds. The issue is, while hearing aids are the most effective at amplifying sounds, they are not the only way to achieve it — which individuals with hearing loss promptly identify.
Those with hearing loss oftentimes turn up the volume on everything, to the detriment of those around them. Tv sets and radios are played excessively loud and people are made to either scream or repeat themselves. The individual with hearing loss can manage just fine with this technique, but only by transferring the burden to friends, family members, and colleagues.
5. Hearing loss is painless and invisible
Hearing loss is mostly subjective: it cannot be diagnosed by visual investigation and it usually is not accompanied by any pain or discomfort. If people with hearing loss do not perceive a problem, mainly because of the reasons above, then they probably won’t take action.
The only way to properly diagnose hearing loss is through audiometry, which will measure the precise decibel level hearing loss at numerous sound frequencies. This is the only way to objectively determine whether hearing loss is present, but the difficult part is needless to say getting to that point.
How to approach those with hearing loss
Hopefully, this entry has created some empathy. It is always exasperating when someone with hearing loss refuses to acknowledge the problem, but remember, they may legitimately not grasp the magnitude of the problem. Rather than demanding that they get their hearing tested, a more reliable strategy may be to educate them on the characteristics of hearing loss that make the condition essentially invisible.
If the unknown creates anxiety, then a trip to the hearing specialist is especially stressful. While almost all of us have experience with the family physician and the local dentist, the visit to the hearing specialist might be a first.
It sure would be useful to have someone elaborate on the process before you start, wouldn’t it? Well, continue reading, because as you’ll see, the process of getting your hearing examined is ordinarily easy, comfortable, and pain-free — with parts that can actually be fun.
So here’s how it will go:
After you arrive at the office, you will check in with a staff member at the front desk who will give you a couple of forms to complete. Not long after filling in the forms, a hearing specialist will escort you into a room to begin the hearing exam, which consists of four parts:
Part 1: Case History
The hearing specialist starts the process by getting to know you, your medical-related history, and your hearing loss symptoms. Preparation for this step is crucial, because this is where you get to relay to the hearing specialist the particulars of your hearing loss, what you expect to see from treatment, and your personalized hearing needs.
This portion is all about you: what do you want to attain with superior hearing? Do you wish to play a music instrument again? Do you wish to be more involved in work meetings? Do you want to be more energetic at social gatherings? The more you can tell your hearing specialist the better.
Next comes the testing.
Part 2: Otoscopy
The first diagnostic test to be completed is called an otoscopy. An otoscope is used to visually inspect the ear canal and eardrum to identify if your hearing loss is connected to infections, earwax accumulation, or blockages. If the source of your hearing loss is something as simplistic as earwax accumulation, you could most likely start hearing better within moments simply from expert earwax removal.
Part 3: Tympanometry
The second test is called tympanometry, used to test the eardrum and middle ear. A device is placed into the ear that will vary the air pressure, measuring how your ear reacts to assorted pressures.
To fully grasp this test, you have to first know that hearing loss is categorized into one of two broad groups:
- Sensorineural hearing loss — this is the most widespread hearing loss. It is also defined as noise-induced hearing loss and it involves injury of the nerve cells of hearing.
- Conductive hearing loss — this hearing loss results from blockages or obstructions that restrict sound transmission before the sound gets to the nerves of hearing.
Tympanometry is a test that can help to rule out conductive hearing loss, to be sure that there are no obstructions, infections, or middle-ear-bone ailments. Conversely, Audiometry, which is described next, will quantify sensorineural hearing loss.
Part 4: Audiometry
The final group of tests will be performed in a soundproof room. These tests are collectively referred to as audiometry and will measure your hearing range and sensitivity. Audiometry is the best method to measure sensorineural hearing loss.
With the use of an audiometer, the hearing specialist will be prepared to establish:
- Which frequencies you can hear comfortably and which you have trouble with.
- The minimum decibel levels, at differing frequencies, at which you perceive sound.
- The precise measurements correlated with your hearing loss (as recorded on an audiogram).
- Your capacity to recognize speech, with or without background noise.
The test on its own, from your standpoint, will be comfortable and effortless. You will be presented with sounds and speech through earphones and will be directed to display when you can hear the sounds by pushing a device or raising your hand.
Assessing results and planning treatment
Soon after the testing is finished, your hearing specialist will evaluate your results with you. If your hearing loss requires medical or surgical treatment (due to infections or middle-ear-bone problems, for example), your hearing specialist can make the appropriate referral.
If your hearing loss can profit from assistive listening devices or hearing aids, your hearing specialist will work with you to identify the ideal solution for you, your finances, your lifestyle, and your cosmetic concerns.
Pretty easy for a lifetime of better hearing, isn’t it?