Most older adults believe a person’s hearing and quality of life are strongly connected, and many believe their hearing could be better. Yet comparatively few older adults actually confront the issue, according to a new AARP survey.
An overwhelming majority of survey respondents (94%) said they consider hearing health and hearing loss to be an important concern among adults age 50 and older, and 84% of survey respondents said their own hearing loss was an important concern. But almost half of survey respondents (47%) acknowledge that their hearing could be better, but they haven’t sought treatment.
The disconnect between the high value placed on hearing and actual action taken surfaced in responses to many survey questions. Most respondents (81%) agreed that maintaining hearing health is either extremely or very important to their quality of life, and over half of respondents (52%) worry that insufficient attention is paid to getting regular hearing check-ups. A full 84% of respondents agreed that they would be likely to seek treatment for hearing loss if it improved their quality of life. But only one in four respondents said they had a hearing test in the past five years. That’s lower than the number of respondents (32%) who had been to a dermatologist in the past five years.
While a majority of survey respondents acknowledge hearing’s importance, they tend to prioritize other forms of health. Over two-thirds (68%) of respondents reported having no discussions about hearing health with medical professionals, including primary care doctors, audiologists, or hearing instrument specialists. Moreover, fewer than one in ten respondents currently own a hearing aid (8%) or use other assistive technologies (2%) — despite one in three respondents (34%) saying they have difficulty hearing when there is noise in the background and approximately one in four respondents (23%) reporting they have to sometimes strain to understand a conversation.
Most respondents (74%) who knew someone with hearing loss said it’s not very or not at all difficult to discuss hearing loss with that person, and more than three-quarters (77%) of respondents said they would get a hearing check-up if they thought they had an issue with their hearing health. However, only two of three (65%) respondents felt confident knowing where to go for hearing help. The most commonly cited barriers to accessing hearing treatment included:
- Health insurance doesn’t sufficiently cover treatment cost (27%).
- Minor hearing issues are easy enough to live with untreated (24%).
- Treating hearing issues would cost too much (22%).
Notably, though, 41% of respondents said none of the reasons the survey listed would prevent them from getting help for a hearing issue. If they were to seek help, two in three survey respondents (65%) said finding a professional with a high level of expertise on hearing would be critical.
The survey was conducted in October 2018. The sample consisted of adults age 45 or older. Data were weighted by gender, age, region, metropolitan status, race/ethnicity, income, education, language proficiency, and Hispanic origin.
Keenan, Teresa A. The State of Hearing Health. Washington, DC: AARP Research, February 2019. https://doi.org/10.26419/res.00279.001