Recent research in the United States indicates that close to 32 million people have a hearing loss—nearly one in ten Americans. In addition, about 1.4 million school-age children have a hearing loss. The early identification and treatment of hearing loss in children are particularly critical because normal development of speech and language depend on hearing. It’s important that you understand the prevalence of hearing loss and the fact that it cuts across all age groups. In fact, most people are amazed when they learn that 65 percent of people with hearing loss are below retirement age. In focus groups with people who have rejected hearing aids, some people with hearing loss expressed the erroneous conclusions that they are rare or obscure individuals, “since so few people have hearing loss” or that their hearing loss “is a sign of aging.” When shown that they were not alone and that most people with hearing loss are younger than they were, they tended to be more accepting of their hearing loss and therefore more willing to seek a hearing aid solution.
Conversations with experts in other countries generally recognize that close to ten percent of the populations in developed countries have problems with their hearing. I happen to believe the actual figure may be higher, because most studies have not included hearing loss populations in institutional settings such as nursing or retirement homes, the military, and prisons. Among the elderly, hearing loss is the third most serious health issue, following arthritis and hypertension.
The vast majority (close to 90-95% of people with hearing loss) can be helped by hearing aids. Because of major breakthroughs in hearing aid technology in recent years, we can now do a better job of matching technology with a candidate’s lifestyle and communication needs. Yet, some purchased hearing aids still end up in their owners’ drawers, unworn. The good news is that many of the problems with hearing aids have been solved, and wearers can now expect improved communication with hearing aids as the rule, not the exception.
Why do some individuals have difficulty adjusting to hearing aids while others are going so well that people around them don’t even notice they’re wearing them? What’s different about successful hearing aid wearers? And why do only one in five individuals with hearing loss use hearing aids despite the proven value of amplification? Some interesting facts now coming to light may answer these questions.
Excerpt by Sergei Kochkin, Ph.D.
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