Hearing Loss: Overcoming Resistance to Treatment

Father and son sitting on couch

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

The statistics:

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

As a consequence, on average, out of 100 people, 20 will have some measure of hearing loss. Out of those 20, only 4 will seek treatment. And those 4 individuals will wait 5 to 7 years before obtaining a test, after which they’ll wait an additional 10 years before buying hearing aids.

As a result,, in this sample of 100 individuals, 16 people will go without improved hearing indefinitely, while the 4 that do get help will have lost 15 years of better hearing and a greater quality of life.

Resistance to Getting Help

If you work in the hearing care sector, these numbers are demoralizing. You’ve probably got into the profession to help people—and with modern-day technology you know you can—yet the vast majority of individuals won’t even attempt to enhance their hearing, or for that matter, even acknowledge there’s an issue.

The question is, why do millions of individuals across the US deny their hearing loss or avoid seeking help?

In our experience, we’ve identified the top factors to be:

1. Hearing loss is progressive

Hearing loss generally builds up in small increments over several years and isn’t evident at any one instant. For example, you’d recognize 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 common form) mainly impacts higher frequency sounds. As a result, you might be able to hear low-frequency sounds normally, generating the perception that your hearing is normal. The issue is, speech is high-frequency, so you may feel that the speaker is mumbling when, in fact, hearing loss is to blame.

3. Hearing loss is invisible and painless

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

4. Hearing loss is not assessed by the majority of family physicians

Only a low percentage of family physicians regularly screen for hearing loss. Your hearing loss will probably not be apparent 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 other ways to boost sounds: you can turn-up the volume of the TV or force people to yell or repeat themselves. But not only does this tactic work poorly, it also passes the stress of your hearing loss onto other people.

If people can prevail over these hurdles, they still must face the stigma of hearing loss (although it’s diminishing), the price of hearing aids (although it’s decreasing), and the perception that hearing aids just don’t work (completely inaccurate).

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

Overcoming the Barriers to Healthier Hearing

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

  1. Know the odds – hearing loss is among the most common health issues in the United States. 20 percent of the population has hearing loss, so it’s not unlikely that you may, too.
  2. Acknowledge your hearing loss – hearing loss is common, and so are hearing aids. Millions of people in the US wear hearing aids and most are satisfied.
  3. Get a hearing test – hearing loss is hard to recognize and easy to deny. The only way to know for sure is by obtaining a professional hearing exam.
  4. Learn about hearing aids – modern-day hearing aids have been proven to be effective, and with a multitude of models and styles, there’s a pair that’s right for you and your price range.

Regarding hearing aids, the Journal of the American Medical Association in a recent study evaluated three prominent hearing aid models and concluded that “each [hearing aid] circuit provided significant benefit in quiet and noisy listening situations.”

The research reveals 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

To summarize, of those with hearing loss, only 20 percent will seek treatment, despite the fact that hearing aids are effective and most people are satisfied with their hearing aids’ overall performance.

But what if the statistics were reversed, and 80 percent of those with hearing loss sought treatment? That would mean an additional 28 million people in the US could obtain all of the physical, mental, and social advantages 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. Schedule an appointment to see if hearing aids could benefit you.