Hearing loss is a commonly misunderstood topic, and many people take falsehoods as fact. Here are 10 of the most prevalent mistaken beliefs about hearing loss, and the truth about each one.
Chances are, if you’ve heard about hearing loss and hearing aids, you have some ideas about what these things are like. Our media often features people with hearing loss, though not all of these movies and television shows are accurate. Inaccuracies in movies, stories, TV shows, and even general knowledge can lead to misunderstandings. Some of these myths are so ingrained that even people with hearing loss believe them.
It’s time to set the record straight and discuss the truth behind these misconceptions. Here are 10 of the most common false ideas people have about hearing loss, hearing aids, and hard-of-hearing people, and how these mistakes impact them.
Hearing loss is an old people problem.
While many seniors are diagnosed with hearing loss, they’re not the only ones with hearing loss. Children can be born deaf, many people acquire hearing loss after illnesses, and you can begin experiencing sensorineural hearing loss at any age. In fact, absolutely anyone can develop sensorineural hearing loss. It does not matter how old you are, if you are exposed to large amounts of noise, your hearing can degrade.
Older adults are not the only ones that experience hearing loss and this belief causes many people to go undiagnosed because they think they’re too young to have hearing loss. Get your hearing checked often, and don’t become part of the demographic that suffers without knowing.
Most people with hearing loss use sign language.
This misconception could not be farther from the truth. While sign language is a great way to communicate, having hearing loss does not make you fluent. Most people with hearing loss can barely finger-spell in sign language.
Sign language is primarily used by people who have been deaf for long periods of time. However, there are people with congenital hearing loss who never learn sign language. Most people with hearing loss know how to speak, and they can wear hearing aids that allow them to hear others.
Talking louder is the only way hard-of-hearing people can hear me.
While speaking up and making your words clear can make it easier for hard-of-hearing people to hear you, shouting or raising your voice at them helps no-one. In many cases, they were just asking you to repeat a word clearly, lift your head, or stop mumbling.
Many hard-of-hearing (HoH) people can hear volume, but struggle to make out words and sounds within the noise. Lipreading can help with this, and it’s easier to understand people who face them and speak clearly. People who talk at the ground, mumble or turn their heads away obscure their lips and muffle their speech, which can make it difficult to understand.
If a HoH person asks you to repeat yourself, do not raise your voice or shout. Face them, talk a little bit louder, and enunciate your words clearly (without slowing down like you’re talking to a child). When you raise your voice or talk to them like they’re children, it calls attention to the situation and embarrasses them.
Hearing aids are ugly.
This is an old misconception that has led many people to forego the care they need. Hearing aids have come a long way in the past 20 years, and many of these advancements have made them smaller, easier to use, and more aesthetically pleasing. They’re no longer the clunky devices of years past.
Some hearing aids are small enough to fit inside the canal, while others can be tucked behind the ear and under the hair. Many of these can also be customized to match your skin-tone, further obscuring them. In fact, many people do not realize their conversational partner is wearing hearing aids unless they’re told.
Meanwhile, the idea of hearing aids as high-tech hearwear has been proposed. The Signia Styletto is a unique design that looks like an ear cuff, and it comes in a variety of colors, including metallic designs. It functions as a high-tech hearing aid while looking like a state-of-the-art designer accessory.
Hearing aids are far from ugly, and perpetuating this myth is harmful to the people who wear them or avoid them out of self-consciousness.
Hearing aids fix your hearing perfectly.
Hearing aids are a hearing loss treatment, not a hearing loss cure. When someone is fitted with hearing aids, their hearing is slightly different than before. It can take some time to adjust to the sounds around them. While it replaces most of the hearing that has been lost, it is not a 100% perfect recreation.
Hearing aids enable people to hear sound, understand speech, and enjoy things like nature or music. And they are constantly being improved upon. Getting fitted with hearing aids is a personal decision, so it’s important to consult a hearing care professional who can advise which type of hearing aid best fits each person’s hearing and lifestyle needs.
You can only inherit hearing loss from your parents.
This is very false. There are two types of permanent hearing loss: congenital and acquired. Congenital hearing loss is present from birth, though not all of these cases are genetic. In fact, only a low percentage of hearing loss cases are caused by genetics. Even then, most children born deaf have two hearing parents with recessive hearing loss genes.
Most people diagnosed with hearing loss have acquired it over time. Sensorineural hearing loss is the most common form of hearing loss. It occurs when the inner ear deteriorates and fails to pick up sound properly. This can happen to anyone, regardless of age or genetics.
It’s okay to tell people with hearing loss “I’ll tell you later” and “It’s not important.”
When you say these things to people, you are brushing them aside and excluding them from the conversation. While you might not realize it, you’re taking away their chance to communicate. People with hearing loss are still people, and they want to take part in conversations and understand what’s being said. Filling them in after-the-fact doesn’t allow them to interact with the conversation and telling them “it’s not important” makes assumptions about what they want to hear. These statements isolate HoH people and keep them from mingling like everyone else.
Be considerate of your HoH friends and family members, and don’t be afraid to pause the conversation to keep them updated. You might be their only link to conversations, so they rely on you, to be honest, and accommodating. If it feels frustrating to you, imagine how they feel when they’re excluded from social situations.
People with hearing loss are pushy and rude.
This is a hurtful blanket statement. While people with hearing loss are not exempt from being rude, labeling all HoH people as pushy is malicious and offensive.
In many cases, HoH people who ask you to repeat yourself or speak clearly are just trying to understand. They are not trying to hurt your feelings or annoy you, and they are not being pushy. They just want to carry a conversation, and it’s your responsibility to put in the effort.
If a HoH person seems exasperated, try to look at your own behavior before pinning the blame on them. Are you speaking clearly? Are you being considerate or are you acting frustrated towards them? Try to be kind and think about how your actions affect them. Don’t treat them like a hassle; make the effort and make them feel included and listened to.
Surgery can heal hearing loss.
Like hearing aids, surgery is not a catch-all solution to hearing loss. While some forms of hearing loss, especially those caused by blockages, can be solved by surgery, this is not the case for everyone. In fact, only a handful of hearing loss cases can be “healed” at all. Most people with sensorineural hearing loss or certain congenital conditions do not benefit from surgery and have to seek out other methods of treatment. Operable hearing loss is the exception, not the norm.
Hearing loss isn’t a big deal because it’s not fatal.
Another troubling falsehood. Hearing loss is a big deal. People with hearing loss are more at risk of accidents, especially those involving moving vehicles. Even if hearing loss is not fatal, it can seriously impact your life. Imagine struggling to hold a conversation, listening to music, or hearing the sounds around you. While many people with hearing loss cope well with their condition, it does not change the fact that it’s difficult.
Preserving your hearing should be a priority. Anyone can develop sensorineural hearing loss, so get your hearing checked and wear protection during loud situations. Hearing loss can impact your quality of life and put you in danger if left untreated.
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