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.