Last updated on Nov 7, 2018
May is the perfect time to talk about hearing loss and the misconceptions about treatment. Why? Since 1927, May has been recognized as Better Hearing and Speech Month. For almost a century, organizations have been dedicated to promoting hearing health, screenings, prevention, and treatment. Still, many people don’t know the facts about hearing aids.
Hearing loss is the third most common physical condition after arthritis and heart disease in the United States, with 20% of Americans reporting some form of hearing loss. It is a complicated condition, and there is a lot of misinformation surrounding treatment with hearing aids. Because so many people live with varying degrees of hearing loss, what applies to one person does not always apply to another. Some of the greatest misunderstandings arise when it comes to the technology itself, as well as how exactly wearing a device can improve quality of life. So let’s debunk some of the common myths and state some facts about hearing aids.
Fact: When someone first begins wearing a hearing aid, the difference in their ability to hear with and without the device can become more distinct. This may lead them to believe their hearing has worsened since using the device, which is a misconception caused by the brain. Because hearing loss often sets in over a long period of time, the brain slowly gets used to missing sounds as the “new normal”. These missing sounds are suddenly present again when wearing a hearing aid for the first time, making the difference when not wearing the device feel much more pronounced.
Fact: Over years of progressive hearing loss, an individual may begin to believe they have a “good ear” and a “bad ear”. While it is true there can be a “better ear” with less hearing loss, there is often some degree of loss present in both ears.
The brain processes signals from both ears for improved clarity and balanced sound. If you only use one hearing aid, but have hearing loss in both ears, your brain has to process two different sound and clarity levels, which makes the sound signal more difficult to understand. Wearing two hearing aids helps balance hearing and provides better results.
Fact: Only 35% of hearing aid wearers are age 65 or older. Hearing loss affects all age groups, including children and young adults. While many people are diagnosed with age-related hearing loss, noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) affects about 15% of the U.S. population. There are hearing aid options available for any age individual suffering from hearing loss.
Damage to your hearing can be caused by a one-time exposure to an intense sound like an explosion, or by continuous exposure to loud sounds over an extended period of time. This affects many people who work in loud factories, shops, or construction sites, or people who participate in loud recreational activities like target shooting and hunting, concert-going, motorcycling, and attending sporting events. Even at-home chores, such as mowing the lawn or using a snow blower, can cause the need for a hearing aid.
Fact: Hearing aids are not a cure for hearing loss, just as eyeglasses do not “cure” vision. However, as with eyeglasses, wearing hearing aids improves quality of life by making everyday tasks more manageable, as well as by improving communication and increasing independence.
Hearing aids can also help slow the progression of your hearing loss. When you have hearing loss, some of your auditory nerve cells aren’t being used as often, so they can weaken further. Plus, your brain is working harder to hear sounds due to less information coming in through those damaged or weakened nerves. The combination of the two leads to further hearing loss. Meanwhile, wearing hearing aids amplifies sounds you would struggle to hear otherwise, stimulating the auditory nerve cells and “exercising” them, so your hearing (and quality of life) stays optimal under the conditions.
Fact: Hearing aids are not just for those with severe hearing loss. In fact, there are many hearing aids designed for mild to moderate hearing loss. With any loss of hearing comes impaired communication. There are many benefits to wearing a hearing aid, and almost anyone with mild to moderately-severe hearing loss can improve their quality of life by wearing a device.
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