Hearing Loss and Cognitive Strain

Difficulty conversing, straining to understand others, and even trouble remembering parts of what was said are common, study finds

Results from a recent Harris Poll shed 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 May, 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,” Kauristen added.  “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.”

By the Numbers

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

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

Poll Methodology

This particular Harris Poll survey was conducted online within the United States between March 24 and 29, 2016, among 2,018 adults ages 18 and older on behalf of Oticon by Harris Poll via its Quick Query omnibus product. Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, the words “margin of error” are avoided as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in the surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in the online panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

Major Public Health Issue

Approximately 20% 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% for people over 75.

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, i.e., 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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