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Millions of Americans Have Hearing Loss: Do You Know Someone?

Hearing loss affects people of all ages, from newborn babies to the elderly. Perhaps it’s time to understand why there is a stigma associated with it and what can be done to change it.



De-stigmatizing hearing loss. That's our topic today on Ask the Hearing Doctors.


Hi. I'm Jim Cuddy, and this is Ask the Hearing Doctors. And I'm joined today by Dr. Ana Anzola, doctor of audiology with Hearing Doctors. The Washington, D.C. area's highest rated audiology practice with over 1500, 5-star reviews. Ana, as always, great to see you.


Great to see you, too.


So why do so many people refuse to acknowledge hearing loss?


Yeah. So that's a good one. There's a personal bias. There's a big stigma. Vanity plays a big role. They're too expensive, perhaps some people would say. They don't know where to go. And we've said in the past it's a very slow and insidious process. So you don't know what you don't know. You missed it. You ask for the repetition. So you implement compensatory strategies. You ask for the repetition. You're asking everybody else to be your hearing aid. And so there are ways of getting by, it's never you, right? 


Of course. Of course not.


Of course it is always somebody else's fault. Or, you know, it was your voice. They didn't speak up or their mumblers.


Oh, I've gotten that. Plenty of times. Plenty of times. Let's talk about, and I think this will surprise some people just how common hearing loss is. And if you would, I think we should break it down between children, young adults, adults, maybe even professions such as military.


Yes, of course. So babies. Okay. Two to three babies are born in the US out of a thousand with a hearing loss by definition, babies. Right. Then you're talking about maybe one in eight teenagers having a hearing loss. And when you get to be an adult, it's one in five between the age of 20 and 65. Military, we talk about… so they're coming out with tinnitus and or hearing loss.


Now when we're talking about the little ones, the babies and even even some of the younger kids, younger adults. Are many, in many of the cases is that just maybe something from birth versus something that happened in life? Whereas an adult it might be because you listened to loud music for a long time or in the case of military, obviously, you know, you've perhaps been out in the field and been subjected to a lot of noise.


Exactly. And don't forget the millennials, right? So we're talking about the millennials. So we're seeing more and more younger kids or young adults coming with a premature hearing loss. Particularly exposed to loud levels of noise. So everything is going into the ears today. And what are we doing? We're cranking it up. And so loud exposure, premature exposure to the hair cells that we have in our ears are causing tremendous damage.


So it's not just treating the hearing loss, but educating the communities about protection, hearing protection.


Absolutely. Protection is obviously the way to go. If you have the knowledge to do it, if you if you've been told and understand it. But let's talk more about the stigma, what perpetuates the stigma, what keeps this thing going?


You know, we're humans, right? So what do we do? We're wonderful, intelligent creatures. And what do we do? We have coping mechanisms and we put those in place. Remember, it's not me, it's you. Repeat what you just said. You're asking for the TV to be put up a little louder. So we have strategies and that's how we are able to get by.


But anybody over the age of 50 should have their hearing tested. Vanity plays a big role. I don't want to look old. But if you don't treat it, you are going to look old. And there's no shame in hearing. You know, we have invisible, tiny little hearing aids today that can do a wonderful job. And there's so much high tech.


The other thing that comes to mind would be the fact that if you're not as savvy, people think that, oh, I need to be very high tech. To wear those high tech hearing devices. And that's not true. The reality is that, you know, there's no shame in hearing. Right. And hearing is sexy because if you're wanting to engage with me and vice versa, we want to be able to have that open communication.


Right. And I don't want to have to keep asking you to repeat everything over and over.


That's not sexy.


No, no, no, not at all. That's annoying. The next thing I know, you're gone, right? Absolutely. How do we diminish the stigma of hearing loss?


Good question. And I think what we're doing right now, educating the communities, doing this podcast. If you think about even the marketing that we do, is always geared towards that older adult. Well, guess what? My youngest patient is five years old. Right. And it’s the whole life. It’s communication for life. So I think that we need to change the way that we promote promoting hearing protection, promoting early examinations. So if there is a hearing loss to attend, the sooner the better.


Well, we've talked about this, too, before, where you could have a hearing and an infection, rather an ear infection. And if it's not taken care of properly, then all of a sudden you have permanent damage, just like with anything else in life. If you take care of it, sooner, the better off you're going to be.


We take our hearing for granted. We think it's always going to be there. But the reality is, I know you take care of your eyes and your teeth but you're hearing and your ears are very precious. So early attempts to identification and early treatment.


Ana, thank you so much.


Thank you so much.


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