Myths about hearing loss are plentiful! Medical research has made living with health conditions easier, and recovering from them much more common. Yet, conditions regarding our senses, and particularly our hearing, still seem surrounded by myths. These myths hold back diagnosis and treatment, especially when a condition is thought to be inevitable or that nothing can be done.
“Myths can’t be translated as they did in their ancient soil. We can only find our own meaning in our own time,” said Margaret Atwood. How true this is! Because myths are normally based in fact. But old fact. Rooted in the past without change that comes when new information is learned.
According to “Healthy Hearing,” there are five myths people associate with hearing loss. They are:
- Hearing loss only impacts the elderly.
- Primary care doctors will diagnosis hearing loss.
- If hearing loss is only in one ear, then it’s not really hearing loss.
- Hearing aids will restore hearing to what it was before.
- There’s nothing that really can be done about hearing loss.
The best way to debunk a myth is with accurate information, so we look at these myths and provide what is known about them:
In fact, 5 out of every 1,000 babies born each year are born with hearing deficits. And, because of noise induced hearing loss, 16% of teens experience hearing loss. Surprisingly, to most, over 50% of people with hearing loss are under the age of 65. Hearing loss is not your grandparents’ concern – it’s everyone’s.
The Doctor’s Visit
Going to the doctor for that annual office visit, or even a sick visit might leave one with the false belief that any hearing loss will be picked up. Usually, that visit will start with the doctor looking into the patient’s ears. But hearing loss can’t be diagnosed, in most cases, by sight, even with an otoscope. Often, the doctor may not even question the patient about changes in hearing. Only 16% of physicians routinely screen for hearing loss, according to the Centre for Hearing and Communication. So, if patients are experiencing ringing in the ears, or a loss in hearing, they should be sure to mention this to their physician so further audiology tests can be ordered. A hearing care practitioner or audiologist has special equipment and testing methods that go beyond a cursory examination. The diagnosis and treatment of hearing loss is a medical specialty and a referral to a specialist is appropriate to ask for.
Losing the sense of hearing in one ear is not to be ignored. And no, the ears won’t “balance out.” Balance can be affected; vertigo can set in; people are more likely to fall or have other non-hearing complications. If hearing goes uncorrected (such as clearing out an acute buildup of wax) the ear – or the brain – can actually forget how to hear certain sounds. So, regular hearing tests and getting attention for any suspected hearing loss – in one or both ears – is mandatory to have hearing loss restored, if possible. If a hearing aid is needed, more than likely there will be two, and they will work together to amplify and direct sound.
Another myth is that hearing aids won’t help. According to the National Institute of Deafness and Other Disorders (NIDCD), “Hearing aids are primarily useful in improving the hearing and speech comprehension of people who have hearing loss that results from damage to the small sensory cells in the inner ear, called hair cells.”
As technology improves, hearing aids are making a dramatic difference in restoring this sense that effects so many parts of the body and quality of life. It is true that while most times hearing aids can increase hearing dramatically, they will not return hearing to its once perfect state.
Nothing Can Be Done
While hearing aids won’t restore, in most cases, perfect hearing, there is so much that can be done. The person experiencing hearing loss may not even need a hearing aid – it could be a medication adjustment, a medical condition, ear wax removal, or a structural situation that can be corrected with surgery.
Here are a few other other myths.
Hearing aids are grossly expensive. Not true – though the newer the technology and the smaller the hearing aid the more likely the price will be higher.
Shouting at someone who can’t hear well will help them hear you – not true. That often worsens the situation with sound become garbled and muffled. Louder is not necessarily clearer.
Hearing aids will make sounds too loud. Again, not true – while sounds might seem amplified due to long periods of not hearing well – soon you will adjust to hearing normally again.
And, finally, if someone has a hearing impairment, they’d certainly know about it. The fact is hearing loss is subtle and gradual, in most cases. Our bodies adapt to a new normal and only professional screening can determine if hearing loss is happening.
Perhaps the biggest misnomer is that “mild” hearing loss has a “mild” impact on the person. According to AudiologyOnline.com, “Mild hearing losses do not have mild consequences. A consequence of mild hearing loss is reduced audibility resulting in reduced speech intelligibility in general, but especially in noise and over distance. Another consequence is increased listening fatigue with the risk of affecting social life.”