Though hearing loss is pervasive, it still remains widely undertreated. Only a third of people who could benefit from treatment actually receive it. Untreated hearing loss can take a toll on various facets of everyday life including straining communication, relationships, social life, work performance, and can also increase health risks. What often contributes to a delay in treatment are the numerous misconceptions that people tend to have about hearing loss. Deconstructing these myths not only increases your understanding of hearing loss but it also supports intervention and treatment.
Myth #1: Hearing loss is not that common.
Hearing loss is actually the third most common chronic health condition that people live with today. The following statistics illuminate the pervasiveness of hearing loss:
- Over 48 million, or 1 in 5, people have some degree of hearing loss.
- The prevalence of hearing loss is twice as common as diabetes or cancer.
- According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders:
- 1 in 3 adults 65-74 have hearing loss
- 1 in 2 adults 75 and older have disabling hearing loss.
- It is estimated that about 1 in 4 adults who report good or excellent hearing already have hearing damage that they are unaware of
This data highlights how common hearing loss is, debunking the idea that it is more of a rare condition that people experience.
Myth #2: Hearing loss only impacts older adults.
Another common myth about hearing loss is that it only affects older adults. People often think they can’t experience hearing loss because they are young adults or are not elderly. But hearing loss actually impacts people of all ages, because aging is not the only cause of it. There are other causes of hearing loss that people across the age spectrum experience.
- 40 million people aged 20-69 have hearing loss.
- 3 of every 1,000 children in the U.S. are born with detectable hearing loss in one or both ears.
- 15% of children and young teens aged 6-19 have some degree of hearing loss.
- Nearly 20% of teenagers have a detectable hearing loss.
Additionally, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that over 1 billion people worldwide aged 12-35 are at high risk of developing hearing loss due to loud noise exposure. This data reveals that people of all ages do experience and are at risk of experiencing hearing loss.
Myth #3: I can still hear so my hearing is fine.
People tend to think that if their hearing is intact, as in they can still hear, then they aren’t experiencing serious hearing loss. But it is important to remember that hearing loss exists on a spectrum – from mild to profound. So it is possible to experience mild hearing loss where you are able to follow conversations but you may miss a few words or have to ask for someone to repeat what they said. You may also be unaware of the range of sounds you are not hearing because you’ve become acclimated to missing them. It is important to intervene in these earlier stages of hearing loss so that the hearing you do have is protected. Failure to address early symptoms can worsen hearing loss and its toll on everyday life.
Myth #4: Hearing loss is curable.
Another common misconception about hearing loss is that it is curable so it can be dealt with later. Sensorineural hearing loss is the most common type of hearing loss, accounting for 90% of the hearing loss that people experience today. This type of hearing loss occurs when sensory cells in the inner ear are damaged. Unlike other types of cells we have, these cells do not regenerate. There are also no interventions or medical treatments that can repair these cells. This means that the damage is permanent and this results in chronic hearing loss.
Myth #5: Hearing aids are outdated devices.
Hearing aids are the most common treatment for hearing loss. A common misconception about hearing loss is that they are outdated and bulky devices, and that misconception causes some people to avoid seeking treatment. But like most electronic devices we use today, hearing aids have experienced significant innovation. Today’s hearing aids are more sophisticated and sleek than ever before. There is a range of styles, options, colors, and technologies that are designed to seamlessly integrate into everyday life.