Common Misconceptions about Hearing Loss

Common Misconceptions about Hearing Loss

Olga Lis, MS, CCC-A

5 Common Misconceptions About Hearing Loss

Did you know that nearly 48 million people in the United States experience hearing loss? Impaired hearing is a common health concern that people are navigating today. The growing numbers indicate that hearing loss is a public health epidemic. Because it often occurs gradually, it can often go unnoticed which can lead to people having hearing loss and not realizing it. Because it is not always obvious, hearing impairment is often referred to as an invisibility disability. Though it is more common than we think, it is not widely discussed and can be stigmatized. Knowing more about hearing loss is critical for maintaining hearing health.  There are several misconceptions including the following:

1. Hearing loss only affects older adults

This is one of the most common misconceptions. It is widely believed that hearing loss is a natural part and result of the aging process. Though hearing impairment affects more older adults, people of any age can and do suffer from hearing loss. Aging can contribute but does not cause hearing loss. According to the Hearing Health Foundation,

  • nearly two-thirds of people experiencing hearing loss are under 65 years old
  • 1 in 5 children ages 12-19 have some degree of hearing loss

Additionally, as technology has advanced and the usage of devices has increased, chronic exposure to loud sounds continues to be a potential risk for developing hearing loss.

2. Talking louder solves the issue

Many people assume that when someone experiencing hearing loss asks them to repeat themselves, speaking louder and projecting their voice solves the problem. Speaking loudly may help hear some words more clearly but shouting is not an overall effective strategy. In most cases, you just need to enunciate the words you are saying and be facing the person you are communicating with. This can prevent any muffling and obscure speech caused by facing another direction, looking at the ground, and mumbling. Raising your voice or shouting during a conversation can draw attention and feel embarrassing, making the conversation unpleasant to engage in.

3. It’s not fatal so it can’t be that big of a deal

Hearing loss is not a fatal medical condition. However, it is a serious health issue that impacts all aspects of a person’s life. Communication is so essential to how we live our lives: interacting with others, participating in various activities, listening to music, having conversations etc. The ability to do these things can be significantly impacted by hearing loss which makes moving through your day-to-day life and performing tasks challenging. This can lead to strained relationships, fatigue, and social withdrawal which takes a toll on your mental and emotional health. Additionally, hearing loss can be linked to other medical conditions and health issues such a cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

4. Hearing loss is hereditary

Many people believe that you inherit hearing loss. Though it is important to be aware of your genetic history and inheriting mutated genes that are linked to hearing loss is possible; this is hard to show a causal relationship between the two. Also, there are several other factors that can contribute to hearing loss, including:

  • Environmental Factors: consistent exposure to loud noise can impair hearing. This could include operating (or being near) loud machinery, consistently attending concerts or sporting games, working in noisy settings (airport, construction site, factory etc.). Loud noise can damage the hair cells, nerves, and/or membrane that are involved in the complex process of hearing.
  • Medical Conditions: there are various medical conditions that can contribute to hearing loss. In addition to the few mentioned previously, viral infections (measles, meningitis), injuries to the ears that may damage tissue and bones, and ear infections.

5. Hearing aids are too big and visible

Hearing loss can be treated and the most common treatment is hearing aids. People typically imagine large, highly visible, and bulky devices that are behind or in the ear. But like many other electronic devices, hearing aids have experienced significant innovation with advancing technology. There are a wide-range of options available that can be highly customized to meet the specific hearing needs of each person. They are small devices with various features and technology that make the experience of hearing as easy and enjoyable as it can be!