It all starts with the million-dollar question: How do I get my family member to consider hearing aids? For me, the journey began with my mom complaining that my dad was deliberately ignoring her. She did not understand that he was at a terrible disadvantage when she would talk to him while she was doing dishes behind him while he watched tv. There are several things wrong with that picture. Number one, his attention was already engaged while watching tv (too loudly, I might add). Second, she was behind him. And third, she was running water and clanking dishes around! A person with normal hearing would struggle to understand speech under those conditions! Once my mom understood that the issue was hearing loss and not deliberate disrespect, we had to get my dad to agree that there was a problem. AND THEN we had to get him to a hearing test and into hearing aids. Definitely not an easy feat! Only about 17% of Americans, 20 to 69 years of age, who need hearing aids ever use them. That percentage increases only slightly to 30% for those who are 70 years and older.
As most of you know, hearing loss does not affect just the one person. It greatly affects those they are closest to, such as those who live in the same household - spouses, children, and caregivers for example. People do not want to be told that they have hearing issues. They would rather place blame on the circumstances or on the person who mumbles or talks too fast. Often times the end result is withdrawal. Withdrawal is a concern for those with hearing loss as it leads to isolation and depression. Hearing loss is also linked to cognitive decline.
So, what is holding people back? For most people, hearing aids make them feel old. Little do they realize, when they cannot hear and need things repeated (or when they just nod and smile), they look older! Another road block is cost. Hearing aids, especially good hearing aids, can be expensive. Motivation also plays a role. People feel that it is not worth the trouble. Almost everyone has heard a hearing aid horror story!
The best first step is to visit an audiologist, not a hearing aid dispenser with a license to sell hearing aids, but an audiologist with a masters or doctorate degree, who specializes in diagnosing and treating hearing loss. It all starts with a proper hearing test. There are several different types of hearing loss as well as varying degrees of severity of hearing loss. Your options for hearing aids depends on what the hearing test yields. The audiologist is the go-to person to assess and counsel on results and options.
Often times, people do not even realize what they are missing. It is like the first time someone tries glasses; they did not know there were individual leaves on the trees! It is funny how you can even forget that little things, like your shoes squeaking, have an associated sound. For this reason, a trial period with hearing aids is so important. In Kansas and Missouri, you are guaranteed a 30-day trial period with amplification. On a personal note, the only way we got my dad to consider hearing aids was to utilize the 30-day trial period. For most people, hearing loss is so gradual that people do not even realize how severely impacted their lives have been. The trial period is the perfect window for someone to know if the hearing aids will work or not. And usually, the aids will work! My dad had no idea what he had been missing but was very pleased with the results. He is now on his third set of hearing aids.
Another stigma with hearing aids is that they will be big and clunky and obtrusive. This isn’t necessarily the case anymore. Hearing aids have become much more streamlined and discrete. It always helps to give your loved one a visual of what aids look like now. Hearing aids are also smarter than ever which means that the devices are set up to be much more fine-tuned to the individual. There are also options for the tech savvy user.
The moral of the story is that hearing aids not only benefit the user, but everyone they interact with closely. It is important to remember that life can change significantly when you can hear. It is an improvement in quality of life. Hearing aid users are able to actively participate in social situations. This can be life altering for the user as well as their family and friends.