2011-03-04 / Columnists

Have You Heard?

Commentary By Shirley Pollak, Au.D

As an audiologist in practice for over 18 years, I have come across many false ideas about hearing loss. In to-day’s article, I bring you some of the more common misconceptions. Next month, look forward to information that will help solve your hearing and communication problems.

Common Myths about Hearing Loss:

“I’ll just have some minor surgery like my friend did, and then my hearing will be okay.”

Many people know someone whose hearing improved after medical or surgical treatment. It’s true that some types of hearing loss can be successfully treated. With adults, unfortunately, this only applies to 5-10 percent of cases.

“I have one ear that’s down a little, but the other one’s okay.”

Everything is relative. Nearly all patients who believe that they have one “good” ear actually have two “bad” ears.

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 percent of patients are in need of hearing aids for both ears. Even hearing loss in one ear makes listening very difficult in most situations.

“Hearing loss affects only ‘old people’ and is merely a sign of aging.”

Only 35 percent of people with hearing loss are older than age 64. There are close to six million people in the U.S. between the ages of 18 and 44 with hearing loss, and more than one million are school age. Hearing loss affects all age groups.

“If I had a hearing loss, my family doctor would have told me.”

Not true! Only 14 percent of physicians routinely screen for hearing loss during a physical. Since most people with hearing impairments hear well in a quiet environment like a doctor’s office, it can be virtually impossible for your physician to recognize the extent of your problem.

Without special training, and an understanding of the nature of hearing loss, it may be difficult for your doctor to even realize that you have a hearing problem.

“My hearing loss is normal for my age.”

Isn’t this a strange way to look at things? But, do you realize that wellmeaning doctors tell this to their patients every day? It happens to be “normal” for overweight people to have high blood pressure. That doesn’t mean they should not receive treatment for the problem. It may be common to have trouble reading as you get older, but who wouldn’t wear glasses if they helped?

“Your hearing loss cannot be helped.”

In the past, many people with hearing loss in one ear, with a high frequency hearing loss, or with nerve damage have all been told they cannot be helped, often by their family practice physician. This might have been true many years ago, but with modern advances in technology, about 95 percent of people with a sensorineural hearing loss can be helped with hearing aids.

“Living with hearing loss is not a big deal.”

There are many psychological effects to hearing loss, including frustration, withdrawal, and depression. Trouble communicating with others creates a strain on relationships and a loss of esteem. It’s far better to deal with hearing loss than to pretend it isn’t happening — or to ignore the effect it is having on those around you.

If you have any questions about hearing loss or hearing aids, please call Dr. Shirley Pollak at Rockaway Audiology and Hearing Aid Center for advice or a consultation.

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