Many of us have a tendency to ignore or deny a problem exists with our health. Heath issues can be hard to admit to ourselves – and scary. Hearing loss is especially easy to deny as it often happens very gradually and we may not notice it at first.
Our odds of having some form and degree of hearing loss range are high, and being younger does not grant us immunity. Believing some of the most common myths about hearing loss is detrimental to our health in more ways than just how well we hear. Hearing loss only gets worse with time. Knowing the truth will help identify a problem and get help now, when it matters the most.
Myth: Hearing loss cannot be prevented and is inevitable with age.
Facts: Though not all hearing loss can be prevented, much of it can be prevented with simple lifestyle changes.
- Cumulative noise exposure is one of the leading causes of permanent hearing loss. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) estimates that approximately 15 percent of Americans between the ages of 20 and 69 have hearing loss due to noise exposure at work or during leisure activities, and 24 percent of hearing loss is attributed to workplace exposure.
- Avoiding loud noise exposure and wearing proper protection when exposure is unavoidable can prevent hearing damage.
- Smoking, diabetes and heart disease also cause hearing loss. Lifestyle changes, such as smoking cessation and diet changes, can help prevent this type of hearing loss.
Myth: Only older adults are affected by hearing loss.
Facts: Hearing loss affects people of all ages from birth through older adulthood.
- An estimated 48 million people in the U.S. are affected by hearing loss and two-thirds of them are under 65 years of age.
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ears) affects 50 million people in the U.S.
- Hearing loss exposure from noise affects people of any age and is cumulative and permanent.
Myth: Babies and young children don’t need to have their hearing tested.
Facts: All infants and children should have regular hearing check-ups and are never too young.
- All babies should have their hearing checked, as 5 in every 1000 newborns are affected with hearing loss.
- Approximately 3 million children in the U.S. have some form of hearing loss and 1.3 million of those children are under age 3.
- Over 90 percent of deaf children are born to hearing parents, but with early detection and intervention, deaf children are able to develop communication skills at the same rate as hearing children.
Myth: I hear well enough. I’d know if I had hearing loss. I don’t need hearing aids.
Facts: Hearing loss is usually very gradual and easy to miss. Usually other people in our lives notice our hearing loss before we do. Are you asking family and friends to repeat themselves? Are you having trouble hearing at work? Are you frequently asked to turn down the volume on the television or your music?
- Approximately 15 million people in the U.S. avoid seeking help for their hearing loss, even though hearing aids offer dramatic improvement.
- Because hearing loss worsens over time, hearing aids can only help if you have hearing left to be saved. You could be damaging your treatment success by waiting.
- Putting off treatment will make it harder to adjust to hearing aids in the future.
Myth: Hearing aids are like contacts or glasses and will correct my hearing loss.
Facts: Contacts and glasses correct vision to 20/20 instantly. Hearing aids do not work the same way. The brain requires time to adjust to sound coming through a hearing aid instead of the ear.
- Hearing aids will not restore hearing back to 100 percent.
- Unlike glasses that do not require training to use, hearing aids may require auditory training to help the brain process sounds.
- Hearing aids usually require repeat trips to the audiologist in order to program them to the unique needs of the patient.
Myth: Hearing loss is harmless to my overall health.
Facts: Hearing loss is linked with cognitive decline, which has a domino effect on our health.
- Dementia, social isolation, problems with work performance, falls, depression, dizziness and more are all results of hearing loss.
- Treating hearing loss, such as with hearing aids, can prevent or even reverse some health conditions caused by hearing loss.
- The earlier the hearing loss treatment, the better success rate for hearing improvement and therefore better improvement with associated conditions.
Myth: There’s only one type of hearing loss and it affects both ears equally.
Facts: There are three main types of hearing loss subtypes—sensorineural, conductive, and mixed—and a fourth rare type (auditory neuropathy spectrum disorder). Hearing loss affects each ear differently.
- The type of hearing loss you may have depends on what part or parts of your ear are damaged.
- Sensorineural hearing loss is the most common form and is permanent due to unrepairable damage to the ear. There are many causes. Hearing aids are the usual treatment.
- Each person’s hearing loss is unique and made up of many factors, including lifestyle, age, other diseases, genetics, type of work, noise exposure, and much more.
Sound Answers Hearing & Speech provides an hearing test and information on hearing loss, hearing aids, and much more.