Father and son sitting on couch

The intriguing thing about hearing loss is that, statistically, if you have it, you more than likely won’t acknowledge it or seek out treatment for at least five to seven years—possibly longer.

The statistics:

  • 20 percent of the United States population, or 48 million individuals, have some magnitude of hearing loss.
  • Of those with hearing loss, only 20 percent will seek treatment.
  • Of those who do seek out treatment, they’ll wait 5 to 7 years prior to receiving a hearing test.
  • Of those that obtain a hearing test, they’ll delay, on average, 10 years after the formal diagnosis prior to obtaining hearing aids.

As a consequence, on average, out of 100 people, 20 will have hearing loss. Out of those 20, only 4 will seek treatment. And those 4 individuals will wait 5 to 7 years before obtaining a test, after which they’ll wait an extra 10 years before buying a hearing aid.

As a result,, in this sample of 100 individuals, 16 people will go without improved hearing indefinitely, while the 4 that do get help will have sacrificed 15 years of better hearing and a better standard of living.

Resistance to Getting Help

If you work in the hearing care profession, these statistics are bothersome. You’ve very likely joined the industry to help people—and with modern technology you know you can—yet the majority of people won’t even try to enhance their hearing, or for that matter, even acknowledge there’s a problem.

The question is, why do millions of individuals deny their hearing loss or abstain from seeking help?

In our experience, we’ve identified the top explanations to be:

1. Hearing loss is progressive

Hearing loss normally builds up in minor increments over several years and isn’t detectable at any one specific moment in time. For instance, you’d recognize a sudden 20-decibel hearing loss, but you wouldn’t necessarily notice a year-to-year loss of 1-2 decibels over 10 years.

2. Hearing loss is partial

High-frequency hearing loss (the most common type) primarily affects higher frequency sounds. That means you might be able to hear low-frequency sounds normally, producing the feeling that your hearing is normal. The trouble is, speech is high-frequency, so you may believe the speaker is mumbling when, in fact, hearing loss is to blame.

3. Hearing loss is invisible and painless

Hearing loss is subjective: it can’t be discovered by visual assessment and it’s not usually accompanied by any pain or discomfort. The only way to properly measure hearing loss is with a professional hearing test (audiometry).

4. Hearing loss is not considered by most family physicians

Only a small percentage of family physicians consistently screen for hearing loss. Your hearing loss will probably not be apparent in a tranquil office setting, so your doctor may have no reason at all to even suspect hearing loss—not to mention they may not be trained in its proper evaluation.

5. Hearing loss is easily compensated for

If you have hearing loss, there are various ways to amplify sounds: you can turn-up the volume of the television or force people to yell or repeat themselves. But not only does this tactic work poorly, it also passes the burden of your hearing loss onto other people.

If individuals can prevail over these hurdles, they still must face the stigma of hearing loss (although it’s diminishing), the cost of hearing aids (although it’s dropping), and the belief that hearing aids just don’t work (completely incorrect).

With so many barriers, it’s no wonder why so many people wait to deal with their hearing loss, if they choose to deal with it at all. But it doesn’t have to be that way…

Overcoming the Obstacles to Healthier Hearing

Here’s how you can conquer the barriers to better hearing and help others do the same:

  1. Know the odds – hearing loss is one of the most widespread health problems in the United States. 20 percent of the population has hearing loss, so it’s not improbable that you may, too.
  2. Acknowledge your hearing loss – hearing loss is common, as are hearing aids. Millions of people in the US use hearing aids and most are satisfied.
  3. Obtain a hearing exam – hearing loss is hard to recognize and easy to deny. The only way to know for certain is by getting a professional hearing exam.
  4. Learn about hearing aidsmodern hearing aids have been proven to be effective, and with a variety of models and styles, there’s a pair that’s right for you and your budget.

Regarding hearing aids, the Journal of the American Medical Association in a recent study analyzed three prominent hearing aid models and determined that “each [hearing aid] circuit provided significant benefit in quiet and noisy listening situations.”

The research shows that hearing aids are effective, but what do hearing aid users have to say? According to the MarkeTrak consumer satisfaction survey, 78.6% were satisfied with their hearing aid performance.

Help Reverse the Statistics

Of those with hearing loss, only 20 percent will seek treatment, in spite of the fact that hearing aids are effective and most people are satisfied with their hearing aids’ all-around performance.

But what if the statistics were flipped, and 80 percent of those with hearing loss took action and sought treatment? That would mean an extra 28 million people in the US could obtain all of the physical, mental, and social advantages of better hearing.

Share this article and help reverse the trend.

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