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Though barely escaping my twenties, I already have peers dealing with some pretty serious ailments: debilitating allergies, Colitis, Crohn’s Disease, etc. Thankfully, these issues have been getting some real attention and there’s a ton of available reading for those beginning to see warning signs.

Unfortunately, navigating the world of hearing loss and deafness can be a bit more mysterious. We tend to associate this kind of disability with the elderly, and there certainly aren’t as many age-appropriate community advocates as we’d like – which makes it especially precarious for folks beginning to deal with hearing loss.

So, if this sounds like you, let’s take a look at common myths and get you headed on the right track!

 1. Hearing loss mostly affects “old people” and is a common sign of the normal aging process.

Nope. Of  the 48 million Americans with hearing loss, only 35% are over the age of 65. There are almost six million people between the ages of 18-44 who suffer from some form of hearing loss.

 2. Hearing loss means that you can’t hear sounds loud enough, right?

Also incorrect. Hearing loss actually changes the sound quality of the outside world (in addition to the volume), making it difficult to interpret what others are saying. You can test your specific level of hearing loss with a registered audiologist – so don’t be afraid to make an appointment if you notice any sudden changes in your normal hearing abilities. One of the first signs of trouble is being aware of any sound distortion in loud, crowded places – like a bar or restaurant.

 3. Could listening to music on my iPhone/iPod contribute to my hearing loss?

YES! Using your earbuds incorrectly or playing music at too high a volume can permanently damage your hearing. In fact, anything over 85 decibels should be avoided – that means using headphones instead of earbuds, listening to your music at no more than 60% of full volume, and even wearing earplugs at loud concerts.

 4.  But hearing aids will make me look “older” or “handicapped.”

At the end of the day, an untreated hearing loss is more difficult than wearing a device. Not being able to interpret the world around you will leave you feeling a whole lot more excluded than being a person that uses a hearing aid. And luckily, hearing aid manufacturers have heard your plea: there’s a ton of devices that fit snugly and discretely inside your ear canal. So rock your device!

 5.  My friend is dealing with hearing loss, should I just speak louder? Or slower?

Nope. Don’t shout at a person who suffers from hearing loss. Shouting actually distorts your voice, making it even harder for the disabled party to understand you. In fact, an increased volume of speech can actually be damaging and super painful to those who suffer from hearing loss, especially if they also wear an aid.

That being said, you just need to speak as clearly as possible and at a regular volume – it’ll be a huge help to your hard of hearing peers.

Most of all, don’t be afraid to ask questions! And keep following the blog at Audicus.com – we’re all in this together.

By: Ariana Seigel, updated by Madeline Foster

Sources: Sutter Health , Action on Hearing Loss , Better Hearing