General

Hearing Loss: Myths & Misconceptions

Hearing loss is incredibly common, with the condition affecting around 50 million Americans. However, while very well-known, loss of this sense is also subject to a number of myths and misconceptions, as we have discussed in more depth below. 

MYTH: Hearing loss only affects those over a certain age. 

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Hearing loss is definitely connected to age; the older a person is, the more likely it is that they will develop the condition. However, hearing loss can develop for a variety of different reasons, such as ototoxic medication, fluid buildup in the ear, or chronic exposure to sound over 85 decibels in volume – all of which can affect people of any age. 

MYTH: Hearing loss only affects the ears 

Hearing loss can sometimes be seen as a problem, yes, but not a particularly significant health issue – not ideal, but not worrisome either. However, hearing loss is actually connected with a number of different health conditions, including a higher rate of falls as well as cognitive decline, depression, and paranoia. As a result, it should be seen as a serious, wide-ranging condition that should always be treated as soon as possible. 

MYTH: People directly notice if they develop hearing loss 

Hearing is such a crucial sense that it is often assumed it would be obvious if it was reduced, but this isn’t actually the case. Hearing loss tends to occur very gradually, which can result in the brain essentially adapting to the loss of sound – which means that it’s not always possible to directly ‘notice’ the condition for many years. Regular hearing screening is recommended, especially for those over the age of 60, to help make sure that hearing loss is diagnosed as soon as it becomes apparent.

MYTH: Hearing aids are prohibitively expensive

Hearing aids are by far the most common treatment choice for hearing loss, but unfortunately, hearing aids have a reputation for being rather expensive. However, while this conventionally may have once been true, there are now options that can make the costs far more manageable; you can get more details here about the different options that can help reduce the costs associated with these crucial devices. 

MYTH: Hearing aids are very obvious in the ear

While the early hearing aids were rather obvious when worn, the current generation of hearing aids are anything but. Modern devices have benefited from years of technological improvements, research, and development, which has led to models that are almost invisible while being worn.

MYTH: You do not need a hearing aid if you only have mild hearing loss 

Hearing loss is hearing loss, which means it should always be treated, even if the degree of loss is rather mild. It’s also worth mentioning that while hearing aids cannot outright prevent further hearing loss, they can slow the progression, so treating even mild hearing loss is absolutely essential. 

MYTH: Treating hearing loss just involves amplification

Often, people with hearing loss can hear sound fairly well – it’s the clarity of sound that is lost, with sounds appearing to be muffled or distorted. As a result, amplification alone is not a sufficient treatment for hearing loss. What’s more, simply seeking greater amplification (for example, by turning the TV volume up) could actually exacerbate the issue and cause further damage to hearing. 

MYTH: Hearing loss and tinnitus are unrelated 

Hearing loss and tinnitus (where people “hear” sounds such as ringing or buzzing, but no such sound actually exists in the physical world) are often talked about as though they are two distinct conditions – which is true, to an extent. While each condition can occur individually, up to 90% of people who develop tinnitus also have hearing loss – so a hearing test is often the first diagnostic step for anyone who develops tinnitus symptoms.

MYTH: Hearing loss is always permanent 

Sensorineural hearing loss, which includes age-related hearing loss, does tend to be permanent – but conductive hearing loss can sometimes be resolved. With conductive hearing loss, the inner ear is able to ‘hear’ as standard, but sound waves are being prevented from reaching the ear due to an obstruction (usually) in the middle ear – such as fluid or earwax buildup, or a tumor. Sometimes, removing the obstruction can result in hearing capabilities being restored. 

MYTH: Only extremely loud noise can cause hearing loss

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When people think about potentially harmful sound, they think of extremely loud noise; like the sound of a rock concert or an aircraft taking off. However, a surprising number of standard, everyday sounds also cross the ‘safe’ threshold of 85 decibels. Using a lawn mower or leaf blower, the noise of heavy traffic, and even the sounds of a busy office can all be potentially harmful to hearing, for example. As a result, hearing protection – such as ear plugs or ear muffs – should ideally be used more frequently than most people expect.

Final thoughts 

We hope the above has helped to overcome some of the myths that surround the topic of hearing loss.