The old woman with the horn in her ear. The old man yelling “What did you say?!” in the park. They could both be characters in a Greek mythology-style tale about hearing loss through the ages – but the truth is, hearing loss is an incredibly common issue in America. It transcends all ages and stereotypes. And it’s time we started separating the facts from the myths.
Here are 5 common myths about hearing loss – and what to do about them.
Myth #1: Hearing loss doesn’t affect many people.
The truth is that hearing loss, as a natural part of life and aging, impacts far more people than you may realize. Research tells us that about 20% of Americans, or 48 million people, experience some degree of hearing loss. Are you having difficulty with hearing? Some early signs to watch for include hearing a buzzing, whistling or scratching noise in your ears, which could be a sign of damaged nerves, or even feeling pain in one or both of your ears due to noise. You might also become tired or frustrated with socializing after straining to hear. If you notice these signs in yourself or others, it’s time to get a hearing evaluation.
Myth #2: Only older people experience hearing loss.
This is one of the biggest hearing loss misconceptions. In fact, 40% of Americans with hearing loss are under the age of 60. Perhaps this misconception persists because it is true that the likelihood of hearing loss often accelerates with age. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, nearly 8% of people ages 40-49 are at risk for hearing loss – and that number increases to 23% from ages 50-59.
Myth #3: Sign language is the best way to communicate with a person with hearing loss.
Not everyone who experiences hearing loss uses or understands sign language. In fact, many people who experience hearing loss gradually over time may not even recognize they have a communication problem. People with hearing loss often rely on a variety of strategies to help communicate, such as lip reading, assistive listening devices and reading facial expressions.
- Make sure you have their attention. A simple tap on the shoulder or hand gesture works great!
- Face directly toward them and avoid covering your mouth with your hands. Your expressions are helpful to confirm what is being said.
- Be aware of background noise, which can make it harder to understand the conversation.
Myth #4: People with hearing loss use hearing aids.
While hearing aids can be an effective approach for some people with hearing loss, they may not be the right choice for everyone. Many factors weigh into the very personal decision of whether to use hearing aids, including the associated costs, the realistic benefits, and an individual’s personal preferences. Even if a person with hearing loss opts for hearing aids, chances are they chose to use other modes of communication for several years before seeking this option.
Myth #5: Telephone conversations are too difficult with hearing loss.
The truth is that the emergence of caption technology has dramatically improved telephone communication for people with hearing loss. The CapTel 2400i captioned telephone works just like any other phone, but also provide easy-to-read captions of everything the caller says. This clear, two-way communication allows people with hearing loss to stay connected over the phone to those they care about the most.
Now that you know the truth behind the most common hearing loss myths, you can be a better advocate for the hearing loss community.