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Sivantos Survey: Seniors Are in Denial About Hearing Loss

Debra Ludgate

September 28, 2015
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Interview with Debra Ludgate, Director, Marketing Communications, Sivantos, Inc.


Carolyn Smaka:  Sivantos recently conducted a survey showing that most seniors are in denial about hearing loss.  Debbie, why did Sivantos decide to conduct this particular survey?

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Debbie Ludgate: As you may know Carolyn, hearing loss is the third most common health problem in the U.S. While 48 million Americans suffer from hearing loss, only 30 percent actually get hearing aids.

Early this year, we were exhibiting at a very large conference of seniors and we saw this survey as a valuable opportunity to solicit direct feedback from conference attendees about hearing loss get insight into these staggering numbers.

In addition, we know that hearing loss itself has a negative impact on quality of life in many areas, and it has also been linked to many other serious health conditions such as cognitive decline, dementia and depression. Hearing loss has also been associated with diabetes and an increased risk of falls. Hearing loss and tinnitus are  the top health conditions that our military men and women face when they return from service as well. 

More seniors are staying in the workforce and rely on their hearing on the job.  Since the incidence of hearing loss increases with age, we know that many of these seniors will have hearing loss and face communication challenges at work.

In terms of solutions, today’s hearing aids are smart, wearable, high tech devices.  They learn your listening habits, they adjust automatically to your environment, and they’re nearly effortless to wear.  They are super tiny, and available in different levels to fit people’s lifestyle and budgets.  Yet the general public may still have outdated ideas about hearing aids that no longer apply.

We are very passionate about educating people about hearing loss, getting their hearing checked, and showing the benefit of today’s hearing aids.This survey arose out of these intentions.

Carolyn: What were the key findings?

Debbie:  The first result that jumped out at us were the fact that of those surveyed, 55 percent have hearing loss, and only 16 percent wear a hearing aid. 

Also, only half of those with severe hearing loss wear hearing aid.  That is an astounding figure.

The perception that many seniors have is that hearing aids make them look old.  So we're finding people who are willing to get a hip replaced, a shoulder replaced, or undergo various cosmetic procedures to enhance their youthful appearance., but they feel that hearing aids may make them look old.  In fact, it is often the case that not wearing hearing aids when you need them – and therefore missing out on conversations and saying “what”, for example – is what makes you look old.

We noticed a “reverse perception” that was interesting. People surveyed thought that people would perceive them as looking old if they were to wear a hearing aid, yet they don't perceive other people who wear hearing aids in a negative way.  We want to raise awareness about this point in particular as it may help encourage people to get a hearing screening.

We’ve put together an engaging infographic to summarize the results - you can view it here.

Carolyn: How can professionals leverage the survey findings in their practices?

Debbie: We’ve made the survey results available at a new landing page, usa.bestsoundtechnology.com/seniors, for professionals to use for education and outreach. 

There are many ways that professionals can use the survey results.  The results show the need for hearing screenings.  We recommend that professionals offer accessible hearing screenings to people of all ages.  Even teens are reporting signs of hearing loss as a result of risky listening habits.

Professionals can use the survey results to raise awareness of hearing loss in their communities.  For example, they can write articles about hearing loss for their local newspapers, offer a lecture at a local senior center, and reach out to physicians.

We have a physician outreach program to support professionals’ efforts in this area, that details hearing loss co-morbidities to help educate physicians on hearing loss.   Awareness can drive referrals for hearing screenings and exams, and help more people to seek treatment.

In addition, professionals can seize upon the opportunity to talk about today’s smart hearing aids. 

At the convention where the survey was conducted, we demonstrated Siemens binax devices, and the seniors who tried them were amazed.  Being able to actually try the devices made all the difference; the reactions were priceless.  For professionals, we recommend conducting demos of hearing technology.  Among the best practices of our most successful customers is conducting open houses where people can demo hearing solutions. It is very powerful for people to experience the benefit of hearing solutions, rather than just be told about them. 

Carolyn: Sivantos also recently conducted a satellite media tour to raise awareness of hearing loss and hearing loss solutions.

Debbie:  Yes, Dr. Tom Powers and Dr. Gus Mueller were in New York City and conducted 21 interviews with reporters from all over the country.  There were both live and recorded interviews from a variety of media including television and radio, resulting in nearly 260 total broadcast placements and reaching an audience of more than 75 million people.

Reporters were shocked to learn that hearing loss is the third most common health problem, and we got quite a lot of coverage.  Many of the reporters admitted that they had a family member with hearing loss, and they saw the need to cover this important topic.  One of the interviews from the satellite media tour can be found on the microsite as well.

Carolyn:  It’s great to see these initiatives that promote hearing loss awareness and education.  Thanks for your time today, Debbie.

For more information, please visit http://usa.bestsoundtechnology.com/seniors

4 recorded webinars | Millennial Matters & Generational Issues in Audiology | Guest Editor: Yell Inverso, Aud, PhD |


debra ludgate

Debra Ludgate

Debbie Ludgate is Director of Marketing Communications for Sivantos.