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Are you wondering whether your hearing ability is normal? You’re not alone. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that around one in eight people over the age of 12 within the United States has hearing loss in both ears.
You might also be delaying a hearing health exam because although you notice your hearing has declined, it’s not ‘that bad.’ Many people find themselves in this quandary, which is one reason why on average, people live with hearing loss for about a decade before intervening.
It might surprise you to know that experts themselves disagree over what might be considered ‘normal’ hearing and even mild cases of hearing loss can be successfully treated by implementing a solution like hearing aids.
How experts define normal hearing
Even within the audiology community, or the area of study dedicated to hearing health, there remains debate over how to answer the question What is normal hearing? Experts rely on metrics related to pure-tone audiometry, currently the gold standard of measurement, a subjective test which sends tones through the ear passage and trusts the patient’s response. From these responses, audiologists will determine whether a patient exhibits mild, moderate or severe hearing loss (or no hearing loss in some cases).
However, disagreement upon whether or not these are truly the best barometers of hearing health exists, with dissenters arguing that even more quantifiable measures of hearing should be taken into account.
How we individually perceive hearing loss varies
For instance, regardless of a person’s pure-tone audiometry result, it is worthwhile to consider the impact of hearing loss upon their life. While some may test within a mild hearing loss range, the impact of that hearing loss upon the quality of life may be severe. On the other hand, another person might register at a moderate hearing loss and yet does not display any impact upon their vibrancy or enjoyment of life.
We can chalk these two differing outcomes up to many other personality and lifestyle-based variables. Some people are more adaptable than others. One person may be an introvert who is less reliant upon speech clarity to maintain relationships and buoy their emotional and social health. A person self-identifying as an optimist or pessimist might also bear weight in their observation of whether their hearing loss is disabling or not.
At its root, our trouble defining what is ‘normal’ hearing may come down to perception.
Limiting definitions may hurt potential outcomes
In some instances, people who self-report their difficulty hearing and who would be open to giving hearing aids a test drive are dissuaded from doing so because their hearing loss might register in a non-disabling range. And yet, their hearing could be improved (even exponentially so) if they were to invest in a hearing loss intervention. What’s more, these definitions are often relied upon in order to qualify for insurance coverage or state financial assistance.
While testing done by hearing health professionals is certainly useful and should always be conducted in evaluating a person’s candidacy for hearing loss solutions like hearing aids, perhaps a better question might be, Can you live with the amount of hearing loss that you have?
Intervening in hearing loss helps
The benefits to intervening in hearing loss are considerable and choosing to act earlier rather than later can boost your end results. A study from Johns Hopkins showed that people with untreated hearing loss incurred substantially higher medical costs compared to their peers without hearing loss, to the tune of a 46 percent increase. In the workplace, people with hearing loss have been found to make a quarter less than their colleagues with healthy hearing. Treating hearing loss has proven benefits to mental, physical and emotional health. What’s more, the risk of cognitive decline and a future dementia diagnosis falls with interventions in hearing loss.
Schedule a hearing consultation today
We’ll start your hearing consultation by getting to know you and your story, including your perception of your hearing health and how that impacts your daily life. Then, we’ll lead you through a simple hearing exam and review the results together. Working side by side, our highly trained team will quickly get you on the path to your healthiest hearing and most vibrant life.