Hearing Loss: Overcoming the Barriers to Treatment

Father and son sitting on couch

The intriguing thing about hearing loss is that, statistically, if you have it, you more than likely won’t recognize it or seek out care for at least five to seven years—potentially longer.

The statistics:

  • 20 percent of the United States population, or 48 million people, have some amount of hearing loss.
  • Of those with hearing loss, only 20 percent will seek out treatment.
  • Of those who do seek out treatment, they’ll procrastinate 5 to 7 years before obtaining a hearing test.
  • Of those that get a hearing test, they’ll hold out, on average, 10 years after the formal diagnosis prior to obtaining hearing aids.

So, on average, out of 100 people, 20 will have hearing loss. Out of those 20, only 4 will seek treatment. And those 4 people will wait 5 to 7 years before obtaining a hearing test, after which they’ll wait an additional 10 years before acquiring hearing aids.

As a result,, in this sample of 100 individuals, 16 people will go without healthier hearing indefinitely, while the 4 that do get help will have forfeited 15 years of better hearing and a better quality of life.

Resistance to Getting Help

If you work in the hearing care field, these numbers are bothersome. You’ve very likely entered the industry to help people—and with modern technology you know you can—yet the majority of individuals won’t even attempt to enhance their hearing, or for that matter, even acknowledge there’s a problem.

The question is, why do millions of individuals throughout the US deny their hearing loss or avoid pursuing help?

In our experience, we’ve observed the most common reasons to be:

1. Hearing loss is gradual

Hearing loss ordinarily builds up in small increments over several years and isn’t evident at any one instant. For example, you’d notice a sudden 20-decibel hearing loss, but you wouldn’t notice a year-to-year loss of 1-2 decibels over 15 years.

2. Hearing loss is partial

High-frequency hearing loss (the most widespread form) principally affects higher frequency sounds. That means you may be able to hear low-frequency sounds normally, creating the impression that your hearing is healthy. The trouble is, speech is high-frequency, so you may think the speaker is mumbling when, the truth is, hearing loss is to blame.

3. Hearing loss is painless and invisible

Hearing loss is subjective: it can’t be detected by visual assessment and it’s not ordinarily accompanied by any pain or uncomfortableness. The only method to appropriately measure hearing loss is with a professional hearing test (audiometry).

4. Hearing loss is not considered by most family doctors

Only a small percentage of family physicians consistently screen for hearing loss. Your hearing loss will probably not be apparent in a quiet office setting, so your physician may have no reason at all to even suspect hearing loss—and they may not even be trained in its proper evaluation.

5. Hearing loss is compensated for with ease

If you have hearing loss, there are different ways to amplify sounds: you can crank-up the volume of the TV or force people to yell or repeat themselves. But not only does this method work poorly, it also transmits the stress of your hearing loss onto other people.

If individuals can overcome these hurdles, they still must face the stigma of hearing loss (although it’s fading), the cost of hearing aids (although it’s falling), and the perception that hearing aids simply don’t work (completely incorrect).

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

Overcoming the Roadblocks to Better Hearing

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

  1. Understand the odds – hearing loss is among the most predominant 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, and so are hearing aids. Millions of people in the US wear hearing aids and the majority are satisfied.
  3. Obtain a hearing test – hearing loss is hard to recognize and easy to deny. The only way to know for certain is by obtaining a professional hearing exam.
  4. Learn about hearing aids – the latest hearing aids have been shown to be effective, and with a variety of models and styles, there’s a pair that’s ideal for you and your budget.

In regard to hearing aids, the Journal of the American Medical Association in a recent study assessed three popular 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 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

Of those with hearing loss, only 20 percent will search for treatment, despite the fact that hearing aids are effective and the majority of people are satisfied with their performance.

But what if the statistics were flipped, and 80 percent of those with hearing loss took action and sought treatment? That would mean an extra 28 million people in the US could obtain all of the physical, mental, and social benefits of better hearing.

Share this post 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.