Hearing Loss: Overcoming the Obstacles to Treatment

Father and son sitting on couch

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

The statistics:

  • 20 percent of the US population, or 48 million individuals, have some level of hearing loss.
  • Of those with hearing loss, only 20 percent will seek treatment.
  • Of those who do seek out treatment, they’ll procrastinate 5 to 7 years before getting a hearing test.
  • Of those that get a hearing test, they’ll delay, on average, 10 years after the official diagnosis prior to investing in hearing aids.

As a consequence, on average, out of 100 people, 20 will have some level of hearing loss. Out of those 20, only 4 will search for treatment. And those 4 individuals will wait 5 to 7 years before obtaining a test, after which they’ll wait an extra 10 years before acquiring a hearing aid.

As a result,, in this sample of 100 individuals, 16 people will forgo healthier hearing indefinitely, while the 4 that do get help will have sacrificed 15 years of better hearing and a greater quality of life.

Resistance to Finding Help

If you work in the hearing care profession, these statistics are disheartening. You’ve most likely entered the industry to help people—and with modern technology you know you can—yet the vast majority of people won’t even try to improve their hearing, or for that matter, even admit there’s an issue.

The question is, why do millions of people deny their hearing loss or avoid pursuing help?

We’ve identified the top reasons to be:

1. Hearing loss is progressive

Hearing loss in general develops in small increments over several years and isn’t detectable at any one specific moment in time. For instance, you’d become aware of a sudden 20-decibel hearing loss, but you wouldn’t necessarily perceive a yearly loss of 1-2 decibels over 10 years.

2. Hearing loss is partial

High-frequency hearing loss (the most frequent type) principally affects higher frequency sounds. As a result, you might be able to hear low-frequency sounds normally, creating the feeling that your hearing is healthy. The problem 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 subjective: it can’t be discovered by visual evaluation and it’s not usually accompanied by any pain or uncomfortableness. The only way to appropriately measure hearing loss is with a professional hearing test (audiometry).

4. Hearing loss is not considered by most family health practitioners

Only a small percentage of family physicians regularly screen for hearing loss. Your hearing loss will probably not be noticeable in a silent office setting, 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 assessment.

5. Hearing loss is easily compensated for

If you have hearing loss, there are other methods to intensify sounds: you can crank-up the volume of the television or require people to yell or repeat themselves. But not only does this method work poorly, it also transmits the burden of your hearing loss onto others.

If people can overcome these obstacles, they still face the stigma of hearing loss (although it’s diminishing), the price of hearing aids (although it’s falling), and the belief that hearing aids just don’t work (entirely erroneous).

With so many barriers, it’s no wonder why so many individuals wait to treat their hearing loss, if they treat it at all. But it doesn’t have to be that way…

Overcoming the Obstacles to Healthier Hearing

Here’s how you can conquer the barriers to better hearing and help other people do the same:

  1. Know the odds – hearing loss is one of the most widespread health problems in the US. 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, as are hearing aids. Millions of people in the US use hearing aids and most are satisfied.
  3. Obtain a hearing exam – hearing loss is difficult to recognize and easy to deny. The only way to know for certain is by obtaining a professional hearing test.
  4. Learn about hearing aids – modern hearing aids have been demonstrated to be effective, and with a multitude of models and styles to choose from, there’s a pair that’s ideal for you and your budget.

Regarding hearing aids, the Journal of the American Medical Association in a recent study studied 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 highly effective, but what do hearing aid users have to say? According to 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 performance.

But what if the statistics were inverted, and 80 percent of those with hearing loss took action and sought treatment? That would mean an additional 28 million people in the US could experience 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. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.

Questions? Talk To Us.