1. I would know if I have a significant hearing loss, wouldn’t I?
People often fall into the trap of assuming that they’ll know, without a doubt, the moment they start to lose their hearing. This is a typical hearing loss myth, and the unfortunate reality is hearing loss often occurs gradually and without individuals having any knowledge of it. Too often, a family member, friend or co-worker is the first to tell you. People have annual vision and dental checkups, but forget they should have annual hearing checkups. Hearing loss often doesn’t cause a change in volume. The world doesn’t grow quiet as if you turned down the volume on the television. Instead, parts of sound, typically the higher pitches, become difficult to hear. This makes speech more difficult to understand. You have to concentrate more on understanding what someone is saying, particularly when there is background noise. That is why a person with hearing loss will report that other people don’t speak clearly or they mumble.
2. I can’t have hearing loss unless I am old or around noise, can I?
Another more common myth is that people only lose their hearing when they grow old—or only if they’ve exposed themselves to extremely loud environments for prolonged periods of time. These too, however, are common myths. People of all ages, walks of life and experience can suffer from hearing loss. Noise induced hearing loss is the number one cause of hearing loss. Even if you’re young and have never been exposed to loud music or sound, you can still lose your hearing. You can be born with hearing loss or it can develop in your youth. Over 900 medications and herbals cause hearing loss. Sudden or progressive hearing loss can happen at any age. Hearing loss can even happen for no known reason. Currently 65% of all people with significant hearing loss are below retirement age!
3. If one ear sounds different than the other, or one ear rings (makes noises) and the other doesn’t ring, it’s no big deal.
NO!!! This is a warning sign and you must be seen immediately by your Doctor of Audiology! Any time one ear is doing something the other ear is not, be very concerned. Call for an immediate appointment and let us know what is happening. Also, if your hearing suddenly changes, you must be seen immediately.
4. I get by in most situations. Can I wait to get hearing aids since I have a mild hearing loss?
Research has proven it is not a good idea to put off treating hearing loss for several very important reasons.
Studies have linked the effects of untreated hearing loss to:
- a significantly reduced earning power
- higher risk for dementia and Alzheimer’s
- higher rates of stress, depression, and isolation
The delay of treatment has also been related to a decline in the hearing nerve’s ability to understand speech. Unfortunately, people’s defense mechanisms tend to kick-in when confronted with initial signs and symptoms of hearing loss. The average person currently waits 7 years from the time they first think they may have hearing loss to when they actually treat their hearing loss. Some people unconsciously ignore the signs of hearing loss by compensating through reading lips or relying on technology. An excellent example of this occurs when individuals turn the volume on a television or radio so high as to make others around them uncomfortable. Some people will simply deny they have a hearing loss and assume people mumble or do not speak loud enough. The problem is you have to process the “mumbling”, which can make you slow to respond. You actually do more work thinking on what is said in order to overcome the hearing loss. That can be exhausting. However, individuals either eventually accept their new reality which allows them to start getting help, or they withdraw and avoid conversation. When you stop having conversations, you stop seeing people, going places, doing things and that is when your cognitive decline can begin. These studies showing even mild untreated hearing loss can cause significant adverse effects make a strong case for getting hearing aids and assistive devices.
5. I have nerve deafness. Can hearing aids help?
“Nerve deafness” is actually what is called sensorineural hearing loss. This can be further diagnosed at the Hearing and Balance Institute of the Rockies by determining if it is coming from the inner ear- ‘sensory’, or from the nerve-‘neural’. This is important for deciding what additional diagnostic tests are appropriate. Only about 10% of all hearing loss can be treated with surgery or medicine. The remaining 90% of hearing loss is treated with hearing aids. Your comprehensive audiologic evaluation from your Doctor of Audiology will determine what the most appropriate course of treatment is for you. In most cases, hearing aids are the best treatment for sensorineural hearing loss (nerve deafness).
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