Facts and myths about hearing loss
It’s time to get the facts. Wherever you are on your hearing journey, it’s vital you have enough information to separate the hearing loss facts from the myths. Once you know the facts, you can better understand what causes hearing loss, how hearing loss might be impacting you and how you can protect your hearing.
MYTH: I would know if I had hearing loss
You are likely to notice, eventually, if the problem is getting worse. However, because hearing loss often occurs slowly over many years, it can be easy to grow accustomed to a poor level of hearing. Friends and family may be the first people to point out your reduced hearing. You may be compensating for your hearing loss by lip reading in noisy situations and turning up the volume on your TV or radio. You may believe other people are mumbling and have difficulty understanding conversations in groups of people when there is a lot of background noise. If you think you may have a hearing loss, visit a hearing specialist to get your hearing checked.
- MYTH: If I already have a hearing loss I don’t need to protect my ears from noise
You should always protect your ears from exposure to dangerous noise, even if you already have a hearing loss. Regular exposure to harmful noise may worsen your existing hearing damage.
- MYTH: Having hearing loss means I just need sounds to be louder
When you live with hearing loss, you likely do not hear sounds loud enough. But there is more. Hearing loss often changes the quality of the sound heard, making it difficult to understand and communicate with others, especially in challenging listening situations. An audiologist can conduct some simple tests to measure your ability to hear.
- MYTH: Only people with a serious hearing loss need treatment
It is important to get your hearing tested to detect all degrees of hearing loss. Even mild hearing loss can make it more difficult to communicate with your colleagues, family and friends. However, many people are reluctant to seek treatment for their hearing loss due to embarrassment about using hearing devices. Only 1 out of 5 people who could benefit from a hearing solution actually wear one1. Yet hearing aids, hybrid implants, cochlear implants and bone conduction solutions are designed to be stylish and discreet, and they attract much less attention than frequently asking people to repeat themselves. The treatment your hearing specialist recommends will depend on the type and degree of your hearing loss, as well as your lifestyle and listening environments.
- MYTH: Only old people need to worry about a hearing loss
Hearing loss can begin at any age. It’s estimated that approximately 15% of Americans between the ages of 20 and 69 have hearing loss – that’s 26 million people1.In fact, the popularity of portable music players i.e. iPods and MP3 players, and the growing popularity of loud recreational activities, means hearing loss is on the rise amongst younger generations. In the United States, an estimated 5.2 million children and adolescents 6 – 19 years old (approximately 12.5% ) have already suffered permanent damage to their hearing from excessive noise exposure2.
- FACT: Hearing loss can seriously impact your quality of life
Studies show that hearing loss can have significant social, emotional and physical impacts. It has been linked with stress, depression, loneliness, social isolation and impaired job performance and learning ability. People with a profound hearing loss are more likely to be unemployed, and those who are employed often make less money than people with normal hearing.3
- FACT: The most common causes of hearing loss are noise and aging
Noise fills the world around us. Noise-induced hearing loss is one of the common types of hearing loss, and our noisy modern lifestyle means it is on the rise. An estimated 15% of Americans between the ages of 20 and 691 have hearing loss as a result of excessive noise exposure. Loud noise damages the sensitive hair cells in the cochlea, leading to irreversible hearing loss that accumulates over time. The other major cause of hearing loss is the natural aging process. About 30-35% of adults between the ages of 65 and 75 years have a hearing loss. It is estimated that 40-50% of people 75 and older have a hearing loss.4 It is the third most common medical problem in older Americans5. Age-related hearing loss often comes on gradually and can compound the effects of noise-induced hearing loss.
- FACT: Dangerous sounds are all around us
Modern living and technologies such as cars, airplanes and other forms of machinery mean we are exposed to more environmental noise than ever before. Another cause for the increase in exposure to hazardous noise is the increase in noisy leisure activities such as listening to music with headphones, nightclubbing and attending live music concerts. Today, 1 in 5 teens has some form of hearing loss - a rate about 30% higher than it was in the 1980s and 1990s - which many experts believe is due, in part, to the increased use of headphones. As a rule of thumb, you should only use portable music devices at levels up to 60% of maximum volume for a total of 60 minutes a day. The louder the volume, the shorter your duration should be. At maximum volume, you should listen for only about five minutes a day. Keep in mind most portable music players today can produce sounds up to 120 decibels, equivalent to a sound level at a rock concert. At that level, hearing loss can occur after only about an hour and 15 minutes6.
- FACT: Every type of hearing loss can be helped
One of the world’s most common health problems is also one of the most treatable. People with hearing loss now have a number of treatments options to help them hear and communicate better in a range of environments and to live fuller and more productive lives. Treatments for hearing loss include hearing aids, hybrid implants, cochlear implants, direct bone conduction systems and middle ear implants.
- FACT: The sooner hearing loss is treated, the better the outcomes
Hearing loss can affect your success at work, impede your earning potential and make it difficult to communicate with family and friends. The sooner your hearing loss is treated, the sooner you can overcome professional and social limitations, enhance your language and listening skills, and improve your overall quality of life. The first step to treating your hearing loss is to have it evaluated by an audiologist or other hearing specialist.
1. Quick Statistics, National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/statistics/Pages/quick.aspx
2. Niskar AS, Kieszak SM, Holmes AE, Esteban E, Rubin C, Brody DJ. Estimated prevalence of noise induced hearing threshold shifts among children 6 to 19 years of age: The third national health and nutritional examination survey. 1988-1994, United States. Pediatrics 2001;108:40–43. Accessed at http://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/noise/
3. Wyatt JR, Niparko JK, Rothman M, deLissovoy G. Cost Utility of the Multichannel Cochlear Implant in 258 Profoundly Deaf Individuals. Laryngoscope.1996;106:816–821
4. Presbycusis, National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders , http://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/hearing/Pages/presbycusis.aspx
5. University of California, San Francisco. Facts on Hearing Loss. Available from http://neurosurgery.ucsf.edu/index.php/brain_tumor_center_hearing_loss.html
6. Hearing Loss and Headphones – Is Anyone Listening?, American Osteopathic Association, http://www.osteopathic.org/osteopathic-health/about-your-health/health-conditions-library/general-health/Pages/headphone-safety.aspx
The information on this website is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, prescribe treatment, or replace medical advice. Please consult a hearing healthcare professional to diagnose or treat a hearing or health problem.
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- MYTH: If I already have a hearing loss I don’t need to protect my ears from noise