Are You Among the 17 Percent?

Hearing loss is on the rise, which has a negative effect on many people’s listening experiences. What most people don’t realize is that hearing loss is an invisible disability. If someone were unable to participate in a meeting or a presentation because there was a lack of wheelchair access, people would be upset. They would report it and the venue would spend money to provide accessibility.

Many people find some of the same venues cognitively inaccessible because they cannot hear. Yet because it’s an invisible disability, no one usually notices, and it goes unreported. Therefore, no one cares.

In the U.S. alone, 17 percent of Americans – 52 million people – suffer from hearing loss. Only 1.4 percent of Americans have a physical disability and .14 percent have a visual disability. In comparison to these numbers, hearing loss statistics are staggering.

And they’re growing:

  • 1 in 10 school-age children suffers hearing loss.
  • Teen hearing loss is growing from using ear buds for prolonged periods of time.
  • 43 percent of the U.S. population over the age of 65 has hearing loss.

The impact of hearing loss on an individual leaves many feeling disconnected. They are unable to understand speech, especially over background noise and in environments that have ambient noise and reverberation. Many of us simply don’t understand these challenges and can’t relate.

Assistive listening systems can help those suffering from hearing loss because they deliver the sound directly to the user, eliminating background noise and reverberation issues. The individual can participate in and enjoy what’s going on, dramatically changing his or her experience.

However, many who might benefit from using assistive listening systems are not aware that they’re available – free of charge! – when they’re at a venue. Some think the devices are only for people with substantial hearing loss, even though they are available for everyone. Many also find it awkward to ask for a listening device. If people are not aware or unwilling to ask for help, they can miss out connecting with many great experiences.

My goal is to educate people  and help them understand the difference an assistive listening system can make. There are so many technologies available for today’s venues to enhance people’s experiences. We need to share the news and remove any stigma from using assitive listening.

Is there a time where an assistive listening device would have – or did – enhance your experience?

About Cory Schaeffer

Cory Schaeffer co-founded Listen Technologies in 1998. She is Vice President of Sales Worldwide and also served on the Board of Directors for InfoComm International. Audio is her company’s focus and she believes that good audio enhances the experience for the listener whether in a meeting, house of worship, theater or venue tour.

One Response to “Are You Among the 17 Percent?”

  1. Very thought provoking article, Cory. Thanks for drawing attention to this concern. It is dsicussed often how we are becoming more and more of a visual society. Relying on imagery and video, rather than the spoken word. I wonder if that trend isn’t helped along by the fact that so many have mild to severe hearing loss and the corrective measures for that condition aren’t nearly as easy or accepted as eye glasses are for vision loss.

    Of course, the best experiences are when all of the senses are fully engaged!