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The Truth about Hearing Loss and Hearing Aids

An estimated 36 million American suffer from hearing loss.  And yet, the National Institute of Health (NIH) estimates that only 20% of people who could benefit from a hearing aid actually wear one. Why? Many think they don’t have hearing loss. Or that a hearing aid can’t help them. Or they may just think that hearing aids are ugly and don’t work properly. Whatever the reason, it may be time to separate myth from fact in order to make an informed decision about your hearing health.

Myth: If I had a hearing loss, my family doctor would know.

Fact:  Fewer than 15% of physicians routinely screen for hearing loss during a physical. Since most people with hearing impairments hear well in a quiet environment, it can be difficult to recognize the extent of your problem in a doctor’s office. Your physician may not realize that you have a hearing problem.

Myth: Your hearing loss cannot be helped.

Fact: This may have been true many years ago for people with a high frequency hearing loss. Fortunately, modern advances in hearing aid technology provide viable options for most people with hearing loss.

Myth: Hearing aids will make me look older

Fact: Untreated hearing loss is far more obvious than a hearing aid; your condition is more apparent than any hearing aid if you can’t clearly understand conversations. Today’s hearing aids are available in a wide range of shapes, colors and functions, and are perfectly adapted to the needs of the wearer. Some devices fit unobtrusively behind the ear, some can be worn "invisibly" inside the ear. But all modern hearing aids are lightweight, neat, and highly inconspicuous.

Myth: I have only one bad ear. It’s enough to wear just one hearing aid

Fact: We have two ears for a reason: to give us directional hearing so we can pinpoint the source of a sound. When one ear is slightly better than the other, we learn to favor that ear for the telephone, group conversations, and so forth. It can give the illusion that "the better ear" is normal when it isn't. Most types of hearing loss affect both ears fairly equally, and about 90% of patients are in need of hearing aids for both ears.

Myth: Hearing aids amplify and make everything louder

Fact: Today’s hearing aids are very sophisticated instruments. They operate selectively and only amplify where you want them to – in those frequency ranges where there are difficulties. At one time, it was necessary to turn up the power in order to hear soft speech (or other soft sounds). Then, normal conversation indeed would have been too loud. With modern hearing aids, the circuit works automatically, only providing the amount of amplification needed based on the input level. In fact, many hearing aids no longer have a volume control.

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