89% of people over 80 have hearing difficulty. One in four people in their 50’s has hearing difficulty. One in eight people in their 40’s has hearing difficulty. One in five people 12 years old or older has hearing difficulty in at least on ear. More than half of all Americans suffering from hearing difficulty are under 65 years old.
Hearing is a critical sense for effective communication in the work force. Most employment situations require verbal communication in order to effectively engage in commerce and in dealing with the public. Unaided hearing impaired individuals can expect to suffer losses in compensation due to underemployment, may make mistakes on the job; experience higher rates of unemployment and an overall reduction in quality of life (i.e. anxiety, depression, social isolation, emotional stability, cognitive functioning, etc.) which may negatively impact job performance.
So, how can you tell if you are having hearing difficulty? The easy answer to that question is to have your hearing evaluated. In 2011 a national poll on hearing health was conducted and sponsored by the American Association of Retired People (AARP) and the American Speech Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). This poll measured Americans perception to Hearing Health. For the purpose of this blog, I will refer to the respondents, the 50+ generation, as “Older Americans”.
A few years ago the national AARP convention was held at the Anaheim Convention Center in Sothern California. The perception of “older Americans” was forever changed when on the second night of the convention Elton John gave an hour long performance. On the last night of the convention there was a full blown Bon Jovi concert. I guess its true what they say, “Rock & Roll will never die!”.
The survey found that Older Americans admit that Hearing Health is an important concern, yet 47% of those polled report having untreated hearing loss. The poll also indicated that there is wide spread recognition that their hearing is getting worse. The most common complaint is difficulty understanding speech in the presence of background noise.
Just 45% of these poll respondents had had their hearing evaluated in the previous 5 years. 68% of Older Americans felt that Hearing Health does not receive enough attention compared to other health concerns like joint replacement, dental implants, and other various dysfunctions.
44% of the respondents strongly agree that hearing difficulties can negatively impact relationships with family and friends. One third are concerned that their hearing difficulty can affect their effectiveness at work. Two thirds do not recognize this!
Older Americans get a bit defensive when asked about hearing difficulties. They claim not to be withdrawing from conversations and that the difficulty does not limit their activities even though other people do notice.
They were asked what prevents people from getting treatment for hearing loss. 57% admit to problems but they believe they are not significant enough to seek treatment. 63% of people cite insurance coverage limitations on hearing health (if my insurance won’t cover then it must not be a legitimate problem!).
What would motivate people to seek treatment? 70% of the respondents said they would seek treatment if they thought it was affecting relationships. Nearly as many said they would do so if asked to by a friend or family member.
Some people make an erroneous assumption that if they were having hearing problems their family doctor would have told them, only 14% of physicians routinely screen for hearing loss during a physical. Since most people with hearing difficulty hear well in a quiet environment, like a doctors treatment room, it can be virtually impossible for your physician to recognize the extent of your problem. Without special training, and understanding of the nature of hearing impairments, it may be difficult for your doctor to even realize that you have a hearing problem.
Another improper rationale is that a hearing difficulty is “normal for someone my age”. Normal hearing is a range that normal speech can be perceived accurately. Less than normal hearing impairs people listening in groups, at distances, in theaters, meetings, church, and classrooms.
While the incidence of hearing difficulties is greater than one might expect, the question about your particular hearing level is easy to answer. Have your hearing tested!