Father and son sitting on couch

The intriguing thing about hearing loss is that, statistically, if you have it, you more than likely won’t acknowledge it or seek treatment for at least five to seven years—potentially longer.

The statistics:

  • 20 percent of the United States population, or 48 million people, have some extent of hearing loss.
  • Of those with hearing loss, only 20 percent will seek treatment.
  • Of those who do seek out treatment, they’ll wait 5 to 7 years prior to receiving a hearing test.
  • Of those that get a hearing test, they’ll hold out, on average, 10 years after the official diagnosis prior to obtaining hearing aids.

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

As a result,, in this sample of 100 people, 16 people will forfeit enhanced hearing indefinitely, while the 4 that do get help will have forfeited 15 years of better hearing and a better standard of living.

Resistance to Finding Help

If you work in the hearing care profession, these numbers are discouraging. You’ve very likely entered the industry to help people—and with contemporary technology you know you can—yet the vast majority of people won’t even attempt to enhance their hearing, or for that matter, even admit there’s a problem.

The question is, why do so many individuals across the US deny their hearing loss or abstain from pursuing help?

We’ve observed the most common factors to be:

1. Hearing loss is gradual

Hearing loss most often builds up in minor increments over several years and isn’t perceptible at any one specific moment in time. For instance, you’d become aware of a sudden 20-decibel hearing loss, but you wouldn’t necessarily perceive a year-to-year loss of 1-2 decibels over 15 years.

2. Hearing loss is partial

High-frequency hearing loss (the most widespread type) mainly impacts higher frequency sounds. That means you might be able to hear low-frequency sounds normally, creating the feeling that your hearing is normal. The trouble is, speech is high-frequency, so you may think the speaker is mumbling when, the truth is, hearing loss is to blame.

3. Hearing loss is invisible and painless

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

4. Hearing loss is not considered by most family doctors

Only a low percentage of family doctors routinely screen for hearing loss. Your hearing loss will probably not be obvious in a silent office atmosphere, so your doctor may have no reason at all to even suspect hearing loss—not to mention they may not be trained in its proper evaluation.

5. Hearing loss is easily compensated for

If you have hearing loss, there are alternative ways to amplify sounds: you can turn-up the volume of the television or require people to shout or repeat themselves. But not only does this approach work poorly, it also shifts the burden of your hearing loss onto others.

If people can conquer these barriers, they still face the stigma of hearing loss (although it’s fading), the price of hearing aids (although it’s decreasing), and the belief that hearing aids simply don’t work (entirely incorrect).

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

Overcoming the Obstacles to Healthier Hearing

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

  1. Understand the odds – hearing loss is among the most widespread health problems 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 wear hearing aids and most are satisfied.
  3. Obtain a hearing test – hearing loss is hard to recognize and easy to deny. The only way to know for sure is by getting a professional hearing exam.
  4. Learn about hearing aidscontemporary hearing aids have been found to be effective, and with a multitude of models and styles, there’s a pair that’s ideal for you and your price range.

Regarding hearing aids, the Journal of the American Medical Association in a recent study investigated 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? As reported by 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 seek treatment, despite 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 flipped, and 80 percent of those with hearing loss took action and sought treatment? That would mean an extra 28 million people in the US could obtain all of the physical, mental, and social benefits of better hearing.

Share this article and help reverse the trend.

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