02 Feb Ignoring Hearing Loss – Any Excuse Will Do
Day in and day out we identify hard-of-hearing people of all ages who would rather continue to second guess what they hear or what someone has said then wear a hearing aid. Why do they choose not to hear the punch line of a joke, the whisper of a child or the trill of a bird? Research studies overwhelmingly indicate that hearing aids significantly improve hearing and the quality of life in 90% of people who have a hearing loss. If 9 out of 10 hard of hearing people can benefit and improve their life by wearing hearing aids then why do many not make the obvious choice?
Hearing aid manufacturers have been aware of the dismal statistics that have remained constant over decades: only 20% of people who have a significant hearing loss wear a hearing aid. This means that 80% of the hard of hearing population are living, unaided, with their disability. Imagine if those with a visual impairment chose not to address this disability. Many years of research has documented that the typical person who finally gets fitted for a hearing aid has waited seven years since the first symptoms of hearing loss. This is a long time to put up with the yelling, frustration, and isolation that shrouds a hearing loss.
Over the past two decades of practicing audiology, we have heard a multitude of reasons why a hearing aid is not obtained when needed. These include the following:
Most of us want to be attractive, stylish, healthy and young. Somehow, a hearing aid instantly destroys this image of ourselves.
Youth, vitality and perfection are all desired in our culture. A hearing aid makes us look old (or so we think) and draws attention to the fact that we are not perfect but have a defect. What some people don’t know is that the “completely-in-the-canal” hearing aid is so small and is deeply positioned in the ear canal that it is practically invisible. The big, cumbersome hearing aid of old is long gone.
Hearing aids are expensive. An intermediate quality digital hearing aid may cost up to $1,500. This cost doubles if two hearing aids are necessary. High-end and technologically advanced hearing aids costs even more. Moreover, a hearing aid needs to be replaced approximately every 5 years, as this is its average lifespan.
Priorities determine how a person chooses to spend their money. A boat cruise, or a hearing aid? Money left in an estate, or a new hearing aid? Make the right choice. A hearing aid will improve quality of life for years.
For people that cannot afford to buy a hearing aid there are a variety of charitable organizations that will donate or help financially challenged people get a necessary hearing aid. If you need a hearing aid but can’t afford it, please discuss this with your audiologist who can try to assist with finding help. Many companies also extend financing to their patients.
It has been said that one bad remark will overshadow a thousand good ones. This is especially true if looking for an excuse not to do something. Hearing aids are tiny electronic devices that need proper care and respect. We have all heard of the hearing aid that is kept in the dresser drawer. “It doesn’t work”, “It hurts my ear”, and “I can’t get the battery in”. All these negative assaults on hearing aids can be corrected if only they were taken out of the dresser drawer and brought back to the clinic where it was purchased. We can’t fix the problem if we don’t know about it. Additional counselling on how to properly use a hearing aid may help.
It is true that hearing aids of yesterday were uncomfortable to wear in noisy places, difficult to adjust and squealed some of the time. Thanks to digital hearing aid technology, these problems are a thing of the past. Noise suppression circuits that also enhance speech allow for easier hearing in a crowded and noisy room. Many digital hearing aids automatically adjust to the sound environment and require no fiddling by the user. Feedback cancellation takes care of that annoying squealing in most situations. Many of these types of complaints about hearing aids are no longer valid with today’s digital technology.
It appears to be human nature to ignore a hearing loss. It is an “invisible” disability that others do not see. If hearing loss is a result of aging it occurs gradually over time and is sometimes difficult to detect. Be aware of the signs of hearing loss and have your hearing tested.
Denial of the consequences of hearing loss are often heard in comments like these: “I get by with the hearing I have”, or “I have learned to cope with my hearing loss”, or even “I don’t want to hear anyway… the world is too noisy”. What may happen is these situations when a hearing loss is ignored, is other people must make the sacrifices for the hard of hearing person. The television needs to be turned up too loud for others to enjoy, others may need to repeat themselves, talk loudly, or answer the phone for the hard of hearing person. The list goes on.
We must be honest with ourselves to get the most out of life. A hearing loss is a loss of communication with other people and is an isolating way to live.
It takes time and patience and sometimes many visits to your Hearing Health Care Centre to be properly fitted with a hearing aid. You can double the time required to successfully fit a hearing aid if you run into problems such as an ill-fitting hearing aid that must be remolded to your ear, feedback issues, or re-programming sessions to maximize speech intelligibility in noise. Problems do arise and you need the time, patience and good humour to deal with them.
As surprising as it may seem, we have heard the excuse before that “I’m too old to spend that kind of money on a hearing aid. I’ll be dead in a few years!” This way of thinking about oneself is the most difficult for us to understand. Isn’t it important to hear, especially in the senior years when perhaps we are less active and rely more on television and friends for entertainment? Every person is worthy of help and improved quality of life at any age. Hearing helps us to keep in touch with friends and loved ones, and isn’t that what life is all about.
More than 3 million, or 10% of all Canadians, experience some degree of hearing loss. There is help. There is no excuse.