Hearing Loss Myths: Living with Untreated Hearing Loss

We’re taking another look at some common misconceptions in today’s post.  A lot of people simply put up with the impact of untreated hearing loss in their lives, thinking that they don’t have a problem or that the problem that they are having is “normal.” Worse still, some may believe that nothing can be done for their hearing loss without ever having a comprehensive audiological evaluation to diagnose their personal situations. These misconceptions are encouraged by well-meaning primary care and family doctors who may not know about the advancements made in a specialized field, like audiology and hearing technology. Today we’re going to be making the argument that there’s no reason to not have your hearing evaluated and explore the treatment options available.

Your family doctor might not notice you have hearing loss.

Myth: If I had a hearing loss, my family doctor would have told me.
There are only a few family physicians who are equipped to electronically measure hearing, and they will usually only utilize that equipment if a patient complains about not being able to hear. Additionally, many people with hearing loss can still pick up certain words and guess at the words they missed, and they do so well enough that the doctor may not notice any indications of hearing loss. The average time that a patient spends face-to-face with his or her doctor during a routine physical is limited, and usually the conversation is not extensive enough for the doctor to observe hearing difficulty. The doctor may simply not notice that their patient is having difficulty, particularly if the listening environment in the office is quiet and the patient has a mild or high frequency loss.

Myth: My hearing loss is normal for my age.
Well, there are a lot of conditions that are “normal” or common for people with certain risk factors. It’s “normal” for people who struggle with obesity to have high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease. They still must seek treatment for those conditions. It’s “normal” for smokers to have lung cancer. It’s “normal” for those who drink heavily to have liver disease. While hearing loss may not be as life-threatening as any of the above conditions, it arguably has a bigger impact on lifestyle and well-being, because a loss of hearing can cut us off from our friends, families and loved ones. Just because it’s “normal” for hearing loss to develop as we age, it does not mean that we have to live with that condition untreated.

Myth: It’s better to try to hide my hearing loss than to wear hearing aids.
That’s a heavy price to pay for vanity or pride, especially when untreated hearing loss is far more noticeable than wearing hearing technology, which is constantly getting smaller and more discreet. You are potentially missing more than just the pleasant sounds you used to hear. You might be missing important conversational cues. If you respond inappropriately to your family or friends in conversation, your mental acuity and social skills may be questioned. That untreated hearing loss could reduce the quality of your life by keeping you from the things you used to enjoy, like symphony concerts or dinner out with friends.  In turn, this encourages isolation from social situations, which has been linked to dementia in the elderly by a Johns Hopkins study

Myth: My hearing loss cannot be helped.
Many people with hearing loss have been told, usually by a doctor, that they cannot be helped. They either have a monaural (one-eared) hearing loss, a high frequency hearing loss, or nerve damage due to trauma or loud noise exposure. This opinion is based on old information and the limitations of older hearing technology that was not ideal for mild or high frequency hearing losses. They truth is that an audiologist can treat almost all kinds of hearing loss, at almost any level of severity, with today’s extraordinary technology. This may not mean that treatment will be easy, and it is true that no amount of money spent on technology can restore your hearing to what it was when you were 20 years old. There are options, however, that can make a vast improvement in your hearing and help you maintain the life that you want to live.

How loud are everyday sounds? Click for larger image.

Myth: It’s fine for me to turn up their television or radio or to be around loud sounds. I can’t hear it anyway, so there’s no danger.
Actually, it’s potentially more dangerous for a person with untreated hearing loss to be exposed to loud sounds or to blast their radios or televisions. Damage to the auditory nerve occurs when you’re exposed to a certain level of loudness for a certain amount of time, and those variables don’t change for people with hearing loss. In fact, those who have hearing loss may not be able to recognize that they’re in danger of further damage to their auditory system because they can’t tell exactly how loud those sounds are. Turning up the television or refusing to wear hearing protection around loud machinery sounds like an excellent way to further damage the auditory nerve, causing even more hearing loss over time.

The impacts of hearing loss can be far-reaching and dramatic. Helen Keller once said that the loss of hearing “means the loss of the most vital stimulus &emdash; the sound of the voice that brings language, sets thoughts astir, and keeps us in the […] company of man.” You don’t have to let hearing loss cut you off from the company of your friends and family. With the treatment options available, there is no reason to wait to hear what you’ve been missing. Call today and reintroduce yourself to a world of sound!