Busting myths about hearing loss
Au.D., Reg. CASLPO, Doctor of Audiology
Even though hearing loss is one of the most common health conditions that affects aging adults, there are many myths and misunderstandings about it. Every May, CHS puts an extra focus on hearing loss awareness for Speech and Hearing Awareness Month. So, let’s take on the role of “mythbuster” and talk about the real facts of hearing loss.
Myth: Hearing loss is for ‘old people’ and is just a sign of aging.
Reality: Results from the 2012 to 2015 Canadian Health Measures Survey revealed that 40% of adults aged 20 to 79 had at least slight hearing loss in one or both ears. Although the report indicated that 78% of adults aged 60 to 79 had hearing loss, 40% of younger adults aged 40 to 59 had hearing loss as did 15% of adults aged 20 to 39 years of age. The results also showed that 8% of children and youth aged 6 to 19 years had at least slight hearing loss in one or both ears.
Myth: If I had hearing loss, I would know.
Reality: According to the Canadian Health Measures Survey, most Canadians with measured hearing loss were not aware that they had any hearing problems. When asked, about 77% of adults, 86% of youth, and 95% of children with at least slight measured hearing loss did not report having received a diagnosis of hearing problems from a health care professional.
Myth: If I had a hearing loss, my family doctor would have told me.
Reality: Most physicians do not routinely screen for hearing loss. Some estimates suggest that only 14% of physicians routinely screen for hearing loss during a physical exam. CHS is working hard to change that number and provides hearing screeners to physicians interested in early detection and promoting hearing healthcare in their practice.
Myth: My hearing loss is normal for my age.
Reality: Isn't this a strange way to look at a health condition? While you may have heard this from a well-meaning physician, what’s missing from that statement is that you also need to do something about it! For example, it’s considered "normal" for people who are overweight to have high blood pressure. But that doesn't mean they shouldn’t receive treatment for the problem. If you have a hearing loss, CHS can help overcome barriers to participation with our many programs and services.
Myth: Can hearing be improved by surgery?
Reality: Although you may know someone whose hearing improved after medical or surgical treatment, unfortunately, this only applies to 5 to 10% of cases. The majority of hearing loss is untreatable by medical intervention. The good news is that hearing aids can help almost anyone with hearing loss!
Myth: Hearing loss cannot be helped.
Reality: In the past, many people with hearing loss in one ear, with a high frequency hearing loss, or with “nerve damage” have all been told they cannot be helped. 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. And by the way: 96% of people who get hearing aids at CHS are satisfied with them!
Myth: The consequences of hiding hearing loss are better than wearing hearing aids.
Reality: If you think you’re better off not wearing hearing aids to avoid looking and acting like an “old person,” think again! The fact is, hearing loss is far more noticeable than hearing aids. Without hearing aids, you’ll likely respond incorrectly or appear to not be paying attention during conversations. But it’s easy to avoid this kind of miscommunication: If you need hearing aids, just get them!
Myth: Only people with severe hearing loss need hearing aids.
Reality: Hearing loss is often a slowly progressive condition. Like any other health issue, early intervention is key. Even if you have a mild hearing loss, your lifestyle and communication can be impacted. The sooner you act on hearing loss, the better chance you have for your brain to retrain itself how to manage and discern sounds. The longer you wait to address hearing loss, the harder it is to adjust and “relearn” how to hear again.
Myth: Hearing aids are too expensive
Reality: In a perfect world, cost wouldn’t be an issue, but like many other products on the market, hearing aids have different price points as well. There are several levels of hearing aid technology and your audiologist can offer advice on which would work best for you. While many people fall into the entry- to mid-level range for price and technology, if you have a particularly busy lifestyle with high communication needs at work, school, or social events, then premium technology may be recommended. Although premium hearing aids have a higher price point, CHS does its utmost to keep fees as reasonable as possible. In addition, CHS frequently offers hearing aid sales and its Sound Rewards and Sound Umbrella service programs help keep maintenance and care costs affordable.
Myth: If I get a hearing aid, it will just end up “in the drawer”- like everyone else’s
Reality: Just because hearing aids didn’t work out for someone else doesn’t mean they won’t work for you. But the truth is, sometimes people chose the wrong hearing aid or have it programmed incorrectly. Some find noisy situations bothersome or are overwhelmed by changing batteries or cleaning procedures. In these situations, people often just give up - and when that happens, hearing aids get placed in the dreaded “drawer.” That’s the last thing we want at CHS. If you’ve already tried hearing aids in the past and had a bad experience, maybe a fresh start, better technology, and working with a professional, established hearing healthcare provider like CHS will make all the difference.