A Hearing Loss & Late Deafened Blog

Study of People With Hearing Loss Reveals Reluctance to Acquire Hearing Aids

In Hearing Loss on December 3, 2009 at 2:34 am

We’re not alone. But it must seem that way to many people who are new to hearing loss and its impact on their daily lives. That’s one suggestion that can be drawn from the latest MarkeTrak survey of the hearing loss population in the United States .

One of the key findings is that the country’s hearing loss population grew to 34.25 million in 2008. That represents 11 percent of the population or 29.5 percent of all households. Since 2004, the hearing loss population grew by 8.8 percent as the average age of Americans rose.

Yet despite the rising numbers of people with hearing loss, the survey shows that the use of hearing aids remains relatively low. Roughly one in four Americans with hearing loss uses hearing aids.

Why is that figure so low? The survey suggests a few reasons. One is that the use of hearing aids is closely linked to the degree of hearing loss. Fewer than one in 10 people with mild hearing loss uses hearing aids. The figure rises to four in 10 people with moderate-to-severe hearing loss. Hearing aid owners are more likely to have a bilateral loss, to have a severe-to-profound loss, to have more difficulty hearing normal speech across a room without visual cues and to have difficulty hearing in noise.

Still, the survey suggests most people wait years before they do anything about their hearing loss. Hearing aids are still closely associated with senior citizens. While there is truth to that perception, hearing loss is clearly widespread. Unfortunately, it takes a long time for people to recognize that they can benefit from doing something about their own loss. That fact does not appear to be changing.

For more details on the survey, see “MarkeTrak VIII: 25-year trends in the hearing health market,” Hearing Review.

  1. This is a similar story worldwide. In a nutshell, the world is a damned noisy place today, and many are not aware of the deterioration. Another issue is more complex and psychological, deafness is such a horror story to hearing people, no-one wants to go there ! As I related in my own blog, myself and my mother stood back from wearing aids even when we could hear next to nothing, then, we wore them even when we couldn’t hear anything at all. I think deafness is bad news, and no-one seems to be able to put a positive spin on it, but those who have little intention of mingling with the world outside if they can help it. It is those who do not want to cross, or cannot cross the line mentally to the ‘deaf way’ that oppose hearing aids. Britain has 3 MILLION who need to wear an aid now, they still aren’t wearing them, deaf culture needs a new spin sector badly ! or the ‘deaf’ need a complete culture of their own. Basically most are praying the cure is coming soon….

  2. One MAIN reason I haven’t gotten hearing aids is they are awfully expensive and my insurance doesn’t cover the cost

  3. Hi MM,
    I waited seven years from the time of learning about my hearing loss to the time of being fitted with my first pair of hearing aids. It couldn’t have happened at a worse age. Hearing aids are associated with the elderly and I was still a teenager concerned about my sexual allure to the opposite sex. Who would want a girl who couldn’t hear?? At that time even glasses were considered nerdy, though Elton John helped a lot there. It wasn’t until the 80s that people began to think of glasses as stylish. Do you remember Marilyn Monroe’s quote, “Boys don’t make passes at girls who wear glasses,”? And what about girls who wore both glasses and hearing aids?? UGH! I would have preferred severe acne at that age, I think. Even at age 26, I cried all the way home after getting my first pair of aids, mainly because the hearing aid care pamphlet was covered with pics of people with wrinkles and gray hair.

    I’m glad hearing aids are becoming more fun and stylish. Having said that, I personally know several people in their fifties and sixties still resisting hearing aids due to the stigma.

    (note: I realize many others had to wear hearing aids at earlier ages and suffered more than me. I’m only sharing my personal experience in coming to terms with progressive hearing loss at a younger age.)

    One reason I think Deaf culture has become so big in the US is it’s sort of empowering to be part of a group of people who disdain the “deaf nerd” stereotype. They are making it COOL to be deaf. I don’t see this as being about loving your hearing loss so much as loving yourself as you are. Each of us need to come to terms with it in our own ways.

    I believe those who are late-deafened or oral deaf do need a similar positive spin. I expect this will happen naturally with so many children wearing CI’s now. thanks for responding. great thoughts

  4. ART– The expense is a very big problem for many and I personally think it’s outrageous medicare doesn’t cover hearing aids. Several states are working on that. HLAA is a great way to get involved in the politics. Check them out if you haven’t already. Also, you can get good basic aids at costco for about half the price that an audiologist would charge.

  5. The British system via the NHS means most aids may be given free. I resisted wearing them, and lied to get jobs, convinced them I was hearing, they thought I was crazy, not deaf, but they hired crazy people and NOT deaf ones !

    Many of us hoh/acquired deaf can really fool a lot of the people most of the time when we choose, then, it becomes a habit too hard to break, because once people know you are deaf, down comes the wall…. and you are wide open and vulnerable.

    No doubt why my work record showed 15 to 20 jobs every year…… some lasted weeks, some days.. when I couldn’t work the interviews any more that was it.

  6. Too true about the ability to fool people MM. I work hard at remembering not to bluff. Many hearing people are astonished when I tell them how bad my hearing is. Trouble is, those I forget to tell think I’m strange because of the numerous inappropriate responses when I’ve guessed wrongly. I am lucky the people are work for tend to overlook my weirdness.

  7. Like Kim, I wasn’t ready to wear hearing aids as a teenager. I waited nearly a quarter century before I got my first pair. I’m still discovering how much I missed for all those years.

  8. I wore HA’s since I was four, but was wired into the loop system at the clinic since I was two. Kind of an osmosis in sound, so I was already used to wearing devices for my hearing loss from get-go.

    My mother suffered from age-related hearing loss, same as her father, but took seven years to admitting that she had a hearing loss problem and finally got hearing tests and hearing aids. Think that for her, my mom didn’t want to admit to yet another health problem, as so many older people experience physical ailments that curtail their lifestyles even more. Denial is not a river. The mind is a lot stronger than the body is willing.

  9. I think too, there is the issue of grappling with a shift in identity. To admit you can’t hear is to admit the person you were has changed forever. In my case, I saw myself as a musical person from a young age. I played music. It was a big part of my life. Suddenly I had this progressive hearing loss and no idea how bad it would get. There was a period of disbelief, then grief. I was sure mistakes had been made, someone had a cure or something. After you get your first pair of aids, then you’re in shock all over again when you realize they really don’t have a good handle on correcting hearing loss. Eyesight seems so much more complicated — until you learn that it isn’t.

  10. I was more motivated to deal with my eyesight in my teens and twenties when I had trouble seeing to drive and to read. When I had trouble hearing at concerts, nightclubs and house parties, I just stopped attending them. I wasn’t motivated to get hearing aids until I could no longer work without them.

  11. My father has partial hearing loss. He can hear you if you speek directly to him. He can not make out what any one says on tv no matter how loud. A hearing aid does not help him.

  12. Hi my name is Robin and i also have to wear hearing aids from beltone but it gets very expensive when i have to buy my batteries and the things to clean the hearing aids. Does anybody know how i can get some help in paying for my items i need for my hearing and also i tried to get ssi for it through social security but was turned down?. Can somebody tell me which step to take for that since i was turned down and someone to call my number is 601-572-9026 please respond somebody i would appreciate it.

  13. Hearing loss is clearly widespread. Unfortunately, it takes a long time for people to recognize that they can benefit from doing something about their own loss. That fact does not appear to be changing.

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