Facts and Fictions about Hearing Loss

In Hearing Health, Hearing Loss by Jennifer Douberly, Au.D.

There are a lot of misconceptions about hearing loss ranging from old-fashioned stereotypes to just uninformed assumptions. Hearing loss is in fact an invisible disability, meaning that you cannot tell from looking at someone from afar that they live with hearing loss. Furthermore, hearing loss is not commonly represented accurately in popular culture. If a character in a television show or movie has disabling hearing loss, it is likely to be the defining element of their character. 

These rationalizations may explain why the misconceptions are so common, but they do little to counteract them. Let’s set the record straight here and hopefully by the time that you reach the end here you will understand how important proper education about hearing loss is to combatting its impact in our lives. 

FICTION: Hearing Loss is Uncommon 

FACT: Wrong. Estimates agree that over 13% of the US population lives with some degree of hearing loss. As a demographic ages, this percentage steadily increases, so much so that over half of everyone aged 75 and above has some detectable level of disabling hearing loss. With appropriate treatment, hearing  loss should not impact your quality of life or the the choices available to you anymore than the color of your eyes or your shoe size. It is imperative that we all understand exactly how common it is so that it becomes normalized and everyone understands that it is no reason to feel ashamed.  

FICTION: Most People Who Live With Hearing Loss Were Born That Way 

FACT: Less than three out of every 1,000 births in the US involve some detectable degree of congenital hearing loss. This is obviously much less than the 13% of the population pointed out above. The percentage of each age demographic that suffers from hearing loss increases steadily with age. Because hearing loss comes on so gradually most people do not even realize that they have a problem for a long time. Sadly, more than 2/3 of people with hearing loss never seek appropriate treatment to mitigate its impacts. 

FICTION: Hearing Loss is One Thing 

FACT: Hearing loss is the umbrella term for a wide variety of conditions, including everything from those who live with mild difficulty hearing to those who are completely deaf. Just like every able-bodied person’s singular circumstances are unique, everyone who experiences hearing loss does so in a manner that is unique to them. Their means of communicating will differ just as the specific needs of their treatment will.  

FICTION: Everyone Who Is Hard Of Hearing Uses Sign Language and Reads Lips

FACT: Most people with hearing loss do not use sign language. In fact, trusted estimates say that only around 1% of the deaf and hard of hearing in the US use sign language to communicate. Reading lips, on the other hand, is far more common than most people assume. In fact, so many people read lips to support and confirm what they think they are hearing that many people do not even realize that they are reading lips. It is likely that you yourself depend on reading lips much more than you know. 

FICTION: Speaking Loudly Will Be Enough 

FACT: Increased volume will help someone with hearing loss understand you, but just as important is clear articulation. And paradoxically, when we speak loudly we often over-annunciate, throwing off their ability to easily read our lips. Hearing loss is not just the result of decreased volume, but muddled clarity. Just as important as seeking loudly, be patient. Be sure to face them directly. Minimize your background noise. 

FICTION: Hearing Aids Will Return Your Hearing to Normal

FACT: Hearing aids and cochlear implants will be an immeasurable help. The impact they will make easing your communication and boosting your overall health and quality of life cannot be overstated. But hearing loss is permanent and irreversible. Nothing will return your hearing to “normal.” Hearing loss is perfectly manageable with appropriate care and upkeep. It will hardly impact your life if you keep up with this care. But your hearing will not return. 

FICTION: Hearing Loss Is a Symptom of Other Problems

FACT: The old stereotypes about the cognitive impairment of people with hearing loss in fact have the situation completely reversed. Failure to adequately address hearing loss leads to many compounding psychological and emotional side effects. In the worst cases, which are unfortunately not the exceptions, untreated hearing loss can even lead to cognitive impairment. 

FICTION: Hearing Loss is a Minor Inconvenience That Can Be Ignored

FACT: There is absolutely no good reason to live with the physical, emotional, social, and professional consequences of untreated hearing loss. Take control of your destiny today. Make an appointment with one of our specialists to assure that you live life on your own terms.