Study shows people with hearing loss struggle with conversations

A just-released Harris Poll sheds light on how approximately 48 million Americans with hearing loss struggle to participate in conversations, strain to understand what is being said and even have difficulty remembering parts of conversations. The independent poll, commissioned by Oticon, Inc. in advance of May’s recognition of Better Hearing Month, was completed online by more than 2,000 people.

“The Harris Poll illustrates how people with hearing loss struggle to understand and recall conversations, and how they experience cognitive strain in everyday listening situations,” said Oticon President Peer Lauritsen. “Oticon’s long-standing focus on advancing BrainHearing™ technology is based on the fact that with hearing loss, the brain has to work harder to understand what is being said. BrainHearing™ technology helps to make it easier on the brain by not only helping people with hearing loss hear better but also by minimizing the mental effort needed to understand speech in background noise.”

The survey results showed the many challenges that people with hearing loss experience trying to make it through the conversations and listening experiences that fill a typical day. Key findings from survey respondents who identified themselves as having hearing loss include:

  • 88 percent frequently miss words in a conversation;
  • 85 percent often use more effort than someone without hearing loss to listen to and comprehend what is being said;
  • 67 percent do not understand what is being said in noisy places and especially when there are multiple noise sources;
  • 67 percent struggle to understand in noisy places;
  • 52 percent always or often strain to understand, follow or participate in conversations;
  • 48 percent have trouble distinguishing speech from noise;
  • 43 percent have difficulty remembering what was said;
  • 33 percent feel isolated or unable to “join in” the conversation when there are multiple noise sources.

Additionally, 73 percent of survey respondents with hearing loss have trouble hearing from different directions and 46 percent struggle to hear without straining. Half of the respondents with hearing loss said restaurants are the most challenging listening environments.

Approximately 20 percent of Americans report some degree of hearing loss, according to the Hearing Loss Association of America. At age 65, one out of three people will experience hearing loss and that rate jumps to nearly 50 percent for people older than seventy-five. As the third most common physical condition after arthritis and heart disease, hearing loss is a major public health issue that has been shown to affect physical health, cognition, perceptions of mental acuity, social skills, family relationships, self-esteem and more.

For almost 20 years, Oticon researchers at the world renowned Eriksholm research center have focused on BrainHearing™ technology, an approach that carefully processes the speech signal so it is presented to the person’s brain as clearly and accurately as possible – the way the brain is best able to understand it. With more sound information, the brain doesn’t have to work as hard to understand what is being said. The result is a clearer, more effortless listening experience. For people who wear hearing aids, this means less demanding mental processing throughout the day so they can engage more actively in everyday life.

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