5 Facts & Fictions about Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is a much more common health issue than you may think. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, nearly 1 in 8 people (ages 12 and older) have some degree of hearing loss in one or both ears. This means that over 40 million people navigate daily life with impaired hearing. 

Though hearing loss is a pervasive condition, there are numerous misconceptions that prevent people from being proactive about their hearing health. Additionally, because it often happens gradually, it can be easily overlooked or ignored for quite some time. Untreated hearing loss can not only worsen the impairment, but contribute to the development of other chronic medical conditions such as cognitive decline (leading to dementia). 

To expand your understanding of hearing loss, let’s explore a few common misconceptions! 

 

Fiction: Hearing loss only impacts older adults

Fact: Hearing loss can and is experienced by people of all ages.

While age-related hearing loss (known as presbycusis) does significantly impact older adults: 

  • 25% of adults ages 65-74 have some degree of hearing loss 
  • 50% of adults 75 and older have disabling hearing loss 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), estimates that 20% of adults in their 20s also experience hearing loss. Additionally, millions of younger adults are at risk of developing noise induced hearing loss. As electronic devices have become integral to how we live in an increasingly digital world, we are constantly listening to music, podcasts, streaming a show etc. Headphones and earbuds are common accessories that we regularly utilize. This increases the risk of absorbing potentially harmful sounds that contribute to hearing loss. 

 

Fiction: It isn’t a serious health condition

Fact: Hearing loss is the third most common chronic health condition that adults experience. It is also a permanent condition that cannot be cured and if untreated, it can lead to significant health issues. 

A common misconception is that hearing loss is not as serious of a condition because it is not life-threatening or fatal. But the first crucial thing to know is that hearing loss is a permanent condition meaning that it is not curable. Additionally, impaired hearing can impact all aspects of life as it strains communication – integral to the foundation for how we live our lives. Strained communication affects relationships, job performance, social engagement, and overall health. Lastly, untreated hearing loss can contribute to the development of cognitive decline, personal injuries, and unemployment.  

 

Fiction: Speaking louder solves the problem 

Fact: impaired hearing cannot be cured but effectively managed. Speaking loudly is not particularly useful and can actually make things worse. 

It is often assumed that if speaking loudly (shouting even) fixes the issue. However, increased volume can actually further distort the sound of speech, making it even more difficult to hear and process. This also is not a sustainable practice for effective communication. 

 

Fiction: Loud noise can’t cause permanent damage

Fact: absorbing loud noise is one of the causes of a type of hearing loss known as noise induced hearing loss. 

According to the CDC, “17% of adults aged 20–69 years (approximately 26 million) have suffered permanent damage to their hearing from excessive exposure to noise”. Sound is measured in decibels and noise above 85 decibels is potentially dangerous for our hearing health. We can be exposed to increased volumes of noise at concerts, sporting events, work, construction sites etc. Exposure to loud noise strains the hair cells in the inner ear which help translate soundwaves into electrical signals for the brain to process. The inner ear is filled with thousands of these hair cells that are sensitive and do not regenerate (unlike other types of cells). This means that when they lose sensitivity, this damage is permanent and prevents them from carrying out their critical function. This results in noise induced hearing loss. 

 

Fiction: Hearing aids cure hearing loss 

Fact: hearing aids effectively treat, but do not cure, hearing loss. 

Hearing aids are the most common way that hearing loss is treated. These small electronic devices are designed to absorb, amplify, and process sound which significantly increases one’s ability to hear. It takes time to retrain your auditory system and integrate this piece of technology into daily life. But the various features and technologies hearing aids utilize, hearing health can be drastically improved! 

Contact us today to schedule a consultation. 

Things People with Hearing Loss Wish You Knew

Hearing loss is an increasingly common health condition that millions of people navigate on a daily basis. Though nearly 1 in 8 people have some degree of hearing loss, there are numerous misconceptions about the condition. This perpetuates the stigma associated with impaired hearing which prevents people from learning more about it. 

Because hearing loss is not a visible health issue, there are people you may know or interact with that experience it without you being necessarily aware.  Hearing loss can significantly strain communication, making conversations challenging. 

There are numerous useful pieces of information that people with hearing loss wish you knew which can help facilitate more effective communication.  

 

Hearing takes work 

Hearing loss demands more energy to hear and follow conversations. People with hearing loss have difficulty absorbing and processing sound as easily as people without hearing loss. This results in expending more energy and using more brain power to hear as much as possible. People with hearing loss may also be using other communication cues (reading mouths, nonverbal communication, facial expressions etc.) to follow the conversation. This additional effort can often be exhausting and leave people feeling drained.  

 

Louder isn’t the best strategy

One common misconception about hearing loss is that people can simply speak louder (even shout) so that others can hear “better”. Increasing volume can actually further distort the sound and make it even harder to understand. So, talking loudly does not automatically mean that the speech is clearer! 

 

Do not assume they’re not listening

It can appear that someone with hearing loss seems distant or distracted during a conversation. They may not pick up on or react to things said in whispers, discreet jokes, or an “excuse me,” but this does not mean that they are not listening. In fact, they are overworking themselves in trying to hear, reading both verbal and nonverbal communication to fully grasp what is being said. 

 

Hearing aids take time

Hearing aids do not work in the same way that glasses do. Glasses immediately enhance vision as soon as they are worn. Hearing aids however, take time to adjust to. They are complex pieces of technology that need to be properly programmed to meet one’s hearing needs in the various environments they navigate. Establishing comfortability and the best settings takes time and practice. Additionally, the brain needs to get used to processing sound with the help of this device. 

 

Stay engaged 

Having a conversation with someone navigating hearing loss can be difficult at first. It requires more attentiveness and patience to ensure that what you are communicating is being received. This can cause conversations to be slower or for you to have to repeat things you’ve said. It is important to not give up and stay engaged in the conversation. With time and by implementing useful strategies, communication can flow smoothly. 

 

Tips for Effective Communication

Conversations require all people involved to engage in ways that enhance communication. There are helpful tips that you can practice to facilitate effective communication including the following: 

  • Rather than repeating exactly what you’ve said, try rephrasing. There are specific types of sound that may be harder for some to process so using different words can be helpful. 
  • Do what you can to reduce background noise. Environments with louder noise can make it more challenging to hear. When applicable, turn down any music, television, refrain from speaking over appliances etc. 
  • Before speaking, make sure to grab the person’s attention so that they are prepared for the conversation. 
  • Avoid doing things that could distract from the conversation: eating, drinking, texting etc. This allows people to read body language which helps communication. 
  • Avoid speaking for the person. You may find yourself wanting to order for them or intervene if you see them struggling but it is important to remember that they can express their own needs and opinions. Rather, you can ask if anything can be clarified. 

Being aware of a person’s hearing needs and ways that you can best meet those needs is an incredibly useful way to be helpful and supportive. This creates the conditions for seamless conversation that helps relationships thrive! 

Investing in Your Health: Treating Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is the third most common chronic health condition that older adults experience. Projected to continue to increase, impaired hearing is a growing public health epidemic. Hearing loss is the reduced ability to hear which can significantly impact the ways a person navigates their daily life. 

If left untreated, the impairment can worsen, lead to the development of other medical conditions, and increase one’s risk of personal injury in addition to: unemployment, underemployment, and cognitive decline. 

Fortunately, there are useful ways that hearing loss is treated. Addressing hearing loss is critical to protecting your health and well-being. Treatment can significantly improve communication, relationships, and quality of life!

 

Understanding Hearing Loss 

Hearing loss is much more common than you may initially think. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders:

  • 1 in 8 people have some degree of hearing loss in one or both ears 
  •  Nearly 25% of adults ages 65-74 have hearing loss 
  • This increase to 50% for adults 75 and older

There are various factors that can contribute to hearing loss including

  • Existing medical conditions: such as hypertension, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity can contribute to the development of impaired hearing.
  • Genetic history: one’s genetic history can impact hearing, it is possible to inherit mutated genes that affect the auditory system. 
  • Environmental exposure to loud noise: consistently absorbing loud noise can damage the hair cells in the inner ear which help the brain process sound. 

Hearing loss can be experienced mildly to severely and often makes communication difficult. 

 

Impact of Hearing Loss 

The sense of hearing is a major way we receive and process information, allowing us to make sense of the world. When this sense is impaired, engaging in daily activities and managing responsibilities becomes challenging. This can impact all aspect of one’s life in numerous ways including the following: 

  • Straining Communication: hearing loss results in many barriers preventing effective hearing. People often experience tinnitus – a ringing or buzzing noise in one or both ears, sounds are muffled, difficulty distinguishing words, missing parts of a sentence etc. This makes hearing clearly and thoroughly a challenge. It can lead to miscommunication and missing critical details. People may also feel like you are not present and engaged in the conversation. But what they may perceive as being distracted, is actually you trying to hear as best you can.  
  • Social Withdrawal: in addition to stretching yourself in trying to hear, you may frequently ask others to repeat themselves, speak loudly and/or slowly, need to move to a quieter area to have a conversation etc. The culmination of all of these effects makes having conversations a lot of work. One can experience serious fatigue and desire to avoid social interaction altogether. This includes avoiding gatherings, social activities, parties, events etc. Isolating oneself in this way means spending less time with family and friends, missing out on important moments, and nurturing connections. This creates distance and tension in relationships and can really affect one’s sense of community and belonging.
  • Overall Health Decline: strained communication and social withdrawal can take a toll on one’s mental and emotional health. It can contribute to loneliness, depression, and anxiety. Additionally, hearing loss increases the risk of developing other medical conditions such as cognitive decline and personal injuries. 

If left untreated, these symptoms can deepen and become overwhelming. It is important to intervene as soon as you can to improve your health and wellness!

 

Benefits of Treatment 

The great news is that there are effective ways to treat hearing loss! The first step is to schedule an appointment with a hearing healthcare specialist to have your hearing assessed. 

Hearing tests are noninvasive, and a relatively simple way to determine your hearing ability in both ears as well as measure the degree (and specific type) of hearing loss you may be experiencing. The most common treatment for hearing loss is hearing aids which are small, electronic devices that are designed to absorb, amplify, and process sound; significantly increasing one’s ability to hear. This can profoundly improve your quality of life by: 

  • Strengthening communication
  • Increasing confidence and independence 
  • Protecting your health 

Treating hearing loss  allows you to navigate your life with greater ease and presence! Contact us today to schedule an appointment.