Survey finds AARP members concerned about their hearing, but often not enough to seek help

WASHINGTON, DC–Approximately 75% of Americans age 50 and over view hearing as a very important or extremely important issue for them personally, according to a survey commissioned by AARP and the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA).

The results of the survey, which was conducted in September by Crux Research, Inc., were released last week by the sponsoring organizations. The report published by AARP is entitled “The State of Hearing Health” and was written by Teresa A. Keenan, PhD, an audiologist.

Eighty-five percent of the 2232 AARP members surveyed said that as they aged they regarded maintaining their hearing health as extremely or very important. Men and women viewed hearing loss equally seriously.

 

MORE TALK THAN ACTION?

Despite expressing great concern about hearing, the AARP members surveyed seemed not so likely to recognize or address hearing loss.

Nearly two-thirds said either that their hearing was currently excellent (32%), or that it was “not as good as it could be” but not in need of being treated (32%). And, among the 35% who acknowledged having difficulty hearing, three out of seven said they had not received treatment.

The over-50-year-olds surveyed were very likely to have been screened for many other medical conditions. For example, 88% said they had taken a vision test in the past five years, 85% blood pressure monitoring, 85% (of the women) a mammogram, 81% cholesterol screening, and 77% (of the men) a prostate exam. However, only 43% of the AARP members said they had taken a hearing test in the past five years.

Given that 35% of the survey population said they had difficulty hearing and another 32% had noted a deterioration in their hearing, the  fact that only 18% reported owning hearing aids suggests a serious underutilization of amplification. That comes as no surprise to anyone familiar with the hearing care field.

 

ATTITUDES TOWARD HEARING AIDS

The survey findings offer some reasons why hearing aids are not used more often. Of the users, 42% were either “extremely satisfied” (8%) or “very satisfied” (34%). Forty percent were “somewhat satisfied”, while 13% were “not very satisfied” and 6% were “not at all satisfied.”

Among the leading reasons for some level of dissatisfaction was that the instruments did not live up to expectations, especially in a crowded room with multiple conversations going on, but also in one-on-one conversation and in listening to television or radio.

Surveyees who recognized that they heard less well than they used to, but who had not sought help for their hearing selected various of the reasons suggested by the questionnaire for their inaction. The most common was that their hearing loss was easy enough to live with unaided (36%). Cost factors were also a significant deterrent among those polled. Twenty-eight percent noted that their health insurance didn’t cover treatment and 27% checked the response  “treating hearing issues would cost too much.”

Other reasons for not getting help were being too busy with other health issues (12%) and not knowing what type of health provider to go to for help (10%).