Setting the record straight – hearing loss
As with all medical conditions, there are numerous old wives’ tales about hearing loss. We want to set the record straight about the most common myths.
1. I can tell if I have hearing loss.
Hearing loss is often gradual and so when hearing loss begins to take effect it is not always noticeable. This is often the case with those who suffer with noise induced hearing loss. When hearing is damaged by noise it is the higher frequencies that are affected and it is often not until age related hearing loss also develops that the initial hearing damage is discovered.
2. If I had hearing loss my doctor would have told me.
In a quiet doctor’s office it is unlikely someone with mild to moderate hearing loss would struggle to hear on a one to one basis. Unless you bring your hearing problems to your doctor’s attention they may not know you are struggling.
Even if you have regular hearing tests at work you may not be informed of any problems, provided they are not likely to interfere with your work duties. We regularly speak to people who suffer with hearing problems and have frequently had hearing tests as part of workplace medicals but have never been given the results of their tests.
3. Hearing loss is an ‘old person’ condition and is only caused by ageing.
Whilst getting older can cause deterioration in a person’s hearing this is not the only cause of hearing loss. Genetics, infections and some medical conditions can all affect hearing. However, the second most common cause of hearing problems is loud noise. Excessive noise can cause hearing loss and tinnitus and hearing loss due to noise exposure is on the rise.
4. Hearing loss cannot be prevented.
Whilst hearing loss caused by age, genetics or infections cannot be prevented, hearing damage due to noise is completely avoidable. If you are exposed to loud noise, such that you have to raise your voice to be heard, you are at risk of damaging your hearing. This is completely preventable as wearing suitable ear plugs or ear defenders can protect you.
5. I already have hearing loss so I don’t need to protect my ears anymore.
Although nothing can be done to recover the hearing you have already lost, you should protect your hearing from any further damage. Once you have damaged your hearing any further damage caused by noise exposure will exacerbate your hearing problems.
6. Having hearing loss just means you cannot hear sounds loud enough.
Although hearing loss does affect the volume you hear sounds at, it also affects the quality of sound you hear. This can make hearing conversations difficult as it can cause muffling of sounds. This is why people who suffer with hearing loss often mishear words.
7. Only people with severe hearing loss need hearing aids.
A person’s need for hearing aids depends on their condition and lifestyle.
Someone suffering with mild to moderate hearing loss could benefit greatly from hearing aids. Many people find that hearing aids assist with both their work and social lives and it is often not until hearing aids have been fitted that the extent of the hearing problems are appreciated.
If tinnitus is an issue, as is often the case with people who have noise induced hearing loss, hearing aids with tinnitus maskers can be worn. These can help to eleviate tinnitus symptoms and can have a huge effect on the sufferer’s quality of life.
8. Hearing aids make everything sound too loud.
Hearing aids are amplifiers and so do increase the volume of sounds. The early hearing aids did indeed amplify all sounds and so many people struggled to cope with the constant noise. Thankfully, technology has come on leaps and bounds and today’s hearing aids are able to distinguish between sounds, amplifying the necessary sounds and dampening others.
9. Hearing aids bought online or from a catalogue are just as good as fitted hearing aids.
Due to the price of private hearing aids many people suffering with hearing loss buy hearing aids online or from catalogues, these are much cheaper than aids fitted by an audiologist. While these aids may be more affordable, they will not provide the same benefits that more expensive hearing aids can.
Hearing aids are available on the NHS in many areas and your GP can refer you for a hearing test to see if you are eligible for free hearing aids. If you are suffering with noise induced hearing loss and are able to pursue a claim for your exposure to excessive noise, a claim for hearing aids can be included in your compensation claim. Amounts are not always awarded for hearing aids however any compensation awarded for hearing loss can assist in purchasing private hearing aids.
10. Hearing aids restore natural hearing ability.
While hearing aids amplify a person’s hearing, they do not restore any hearing ability. If someone is completely deaf, hearing aids will not assist as there is no hearing to amplify. People suffering with noise induced hearing loss have problems with high frequency sounds and so hearing aids can often assist in amplifying these sounds.