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7 Misconceptions About People With Hearing Loss

There are many more misconceptions. These are just a starting point for a conversation.
03/22/2016 08:15am ET | Updated March 23, 2017
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There are many more misconceptions. These are just a starting point for a conversation.

1. Everyone with a hearing loss uses sign language.

Hearing loss is a spectrum, and people with hearing loss don't all communicate the same way. How a person communicates depends on a variety of factors, such as the person's degree of hearing loss, whether a hearing aid or cochlear implant is used, the age the person lost his/her hearing, the level of auditory training received, and the nature of the listening situation. The majority of people with hearing loss do not use sign language, but it is still important to those whose communication depends on it.

2. Increasing the sound volume will enable a person with hearing loss to understand what is said.

There is a point where increasing the volume begins to distort the quality of the sound. To obtain sufficient clarity, people with residual hearing may require sound to be transmitted from the microphone directly to their ear via an assistive listening system such as an induction loop. Sitting close to the speaker can assist the listener but is not a substitute for an assistive listening system. Yelling and over-articulating distorts the natural rhythm of speech and makes lip reading more difficult.

3. Hearing aids and cochlear implants restore hearing to normal.

A person does not obtain "normal" hearing by wearing a hearing aid or cochlear implant. It is not the same as wearing glasses. Hearing aids increase the volume but do not significantly improve clarity or bring the sound closer to the person. Hearing ability in cochlear implant recipients varies from almost normal to only perceiving environmental sounds and depends on such factors as the individual's hearing history, age of onset and length of deafness, and age of implantation.

4. People with hearing loss are dumb, stupid, mute, have intellectual limitations, and are unsuccessful.

People with hearing loss have the same range of intelligence as the general population. People with untreated, or inadequately treated, hearing loss may respond inappropriately since they may have not heard what was said.

Speaking to the companion of the person with hearing loss, instead of directly to the person, reinforces this attitudinal discrimination.

5. People with hearing loss are older adults.

Of the 48 million people with hearing loss, only about 30 percent are 65 or older.

6. When people with hearing loss miss something, it's OK to tell them "It's not important" or "I'll tell you later."

It is frustrating to people with a hearing loss not to have something repeated when they miss part of the conversation. Saying, "It wasn't important" compounds the frustration. No one should tell a person with hearing loss what is important.

7. People with hearing loss are rude and pushy.

People with hearing loss may interrupt a conversation because they didn't hear the speaker and not because they are rude. They may also position themselves toward the front of a group or in a room so that they are closer to the speaker, making it easier for them to hear and lip read. This is sometimes perceived as being pushy.

A variation of this article was previously published on The Physician's blog: Both articles were adapted from, 17 Misconceptions About People with Hearing Loss previously published by Hearing Health, Winter 2010.

Janice S. Lintz is the CEO of Hearing Access & Innovations, which is the only company dedicated to helping the world's businesses, cultural institutions and government agencies improve their accessibility for people with hearing loss.