Hearing Loss Myths: Treatment Solutions and Hearing Technology

Some of the strongest misconceptions about hearing health care involve the treatment of hearing loss. For many years, limits of technology and sound mechanics restricted the ability to successfully treat hearing loss. Because of these limitations, hearing technology was often ugly and bulky with very poor sound quality. Despite recent developments that have reduced the size, improved the sound quality and increased the aesthetic appeal of hearing technology, many people shy away from hearing treatments because they still believe that they either can’t be helped or that the recommended hearing aids will make them look old. Today, we’ll take a look at a few of the most common objections people bring to us regarding hearing treatment and technology.

RIC aids are tiny and treat mild and high frequency losses.

Myth: My hearing loss cannot be helped.
In the past, that may have been true. Until relatively recent breakthroughs in hearing technology, there were certain types of hearing loss that could not be treated successfully. These included high frequency losses, mild losses, sensorineural loss with decreased speech discrimination, or monaural deafness. The limits in hearing technology in the past made it difficult, if not impossible, to help people with these conditions. However, most of those limits no longer exist. Open-fit and receiver-in-the-canal solutions were a major breakthrough that allowed for easy treatment of high frequency and mild losses. The most recent speech enhancement features available in most hearing technology greatly help those patients who have difficulty with understanding speech sounds. Wireless CROS and Bi-CROS hearing aids are now available for people who only have one functioning ear. The truth is that the hearing industry is tackling some of the toughest hearing losses and producing solutions that can help many people who were previously told, often by their doctors, that they could not be helped.

Myth: Hearing loss and hearing instruments are a sign of old age.
Not anymore. Today’s most extraordinary hearing technology is smaller and more discreet than ever before. Many of them are either invisible or nearly invisible when worn. They simply do not look like the hearing aids our parents and grandparents had to wear. Also, the occurrence of hearing loss is more prevalent in the Baby Boomer population than it is in those over the age of 65, which means that people with hearing loss are younger than has been typical in the past. These people are finding it more and more difficult to function in the workplace with hearing impairments. They are treating their hearing loss with amazing technology that gives them confidence to move through their day without calling attention to their condition.

Myth: Really good hearing instruments are prohibitively expensive.
While it is true that premium instruments require premium investment, that premium instrument is usually too much hearing aid for most lifestyles. Most manufacturers produce different levels of their technology at different levels of investment. These levels of investment and technology tend to correlate with and be built around different levels of lifestyle activity. The question to ask yourself is how highly you value your quality of life and how much impact your potential hearing loss has on that quality.

The brain relies on both ears to hear the world of sound.

Myth: Wearing two hearing aids is not necessary.
One hearing aid can certainly get you by. You will notice some benefit, but it won’t be nearly the benefit that you will experience by treating both ears. The first reason is that binaural, or two-eared, hearing helps us localize sounds, helps us understand speech in noisy situations, and helps our brains process everything that’s going on around us in the world of sound. As I sit and type this, my right ear is sending different sounds to my brain than my left ear is sending. My brain relies on the different signals it receives from each side of my head in order to fully process my environment. Without one of my ears, all sounds would appear to be coming from the side of my head that does hear and I would be missing a lot of sounds that are necessary for understanding speech. Another argument for treating binaural loss with binaural amplification is that anytime there is a binaural hearing loss that is only treated with one hearing aid, the brain tends to start ignoring the ear that doesn’t hear as well. In this case, it is very likely that the patient will develop more problems at a faster rate in the untreated ear. Additionally, when there are two ears working at the same level, sounds seem louder than if one ear doesn’t hear. We call this an additive therapeutic effect where 1+1=3 or more, due to the exponential power of the brain in processing auditory signals. If a person wears two hearing aids, those aids do not have to be made as loud as if the person were only wearing one hearing aid, allowing for more severe losses to be treated more successfully.

Myth: I can just have surgery like my friend did and that will fix my hearing.
There are several different surgical procedures available for hearing loss and all of them address a different problem. Of all the hearing loss cases, only a very small percentage are candidates for corrective surgery. Usually these surgeries involve taking some action to prevent hearing from getting worse rather than making it better, as is the case in a stapedectomy or mastoidectomy, and only if the patient is experiencing chronic infections or complications from other medical issues. Other surgical procedures involve the removal of abnormal growths, cholesteatomas, or acoustic neuromas. Some improvement may be seen after these kinds of procedures, but it is unusual for there to be a complete recovery of normal hearing. The procedures designed to improve poor hearing are implant procedures, either cochlear implants or small mechanical implants behind the ear. Cochlear implantation candidates have very profound losses and do poorly with hearing aid amplification. Mechanical implants may benefit a broader range of cases than cochlear implants, yet the surgery tends to be invasive and often involves breaking healthy ossicular bones in the middle ear. Often, healing times after these procedures can be quite long and the implant can generally not be used until the healing process is complete. The treatment process and recovery times for these procedures is longer and more arduous than the process of selecting and fitting hearing aids, which provide immediate benefit without involving any surgical procedures.

The only way to truly know whether or not there are options for treating your hearing loss is to discuss those options with a trained and experienced hearing professional. Audiologists and hearing instrument specialists can test your hearing and make recommendations for successful treatment of most types of hearing loss. These professionals have a focused commitment to stay up to date on all of the new developments in hearing health care and technology. Don’t let the limitations of the past keep you from living your life today and in the future. Call us today and reintroduce yourself to a world of sound!