Many first-time hearing aid wearers have asked themselves this very question.
If you’re not sure whether you need hearing aids, the first step is to have your hearing checked by an audiologist, hearing aid dispenser, or ear doctor. If hearing aids are recommended, ask the professional about the advantages of the various types of hearing aids available. Consider the environments that you’re in, and where you need some help understanding conversation.
Hearing loss has sometimes been called an “invisible” health condition, because there are no outward visible signs associated with it. It usually occurs gradually, and your close friends and family members may notice it before you do. You don’t always know what you missed, because you didn’t hear it. Sometimes, things may sound loud enough, but not be clear. At first, you may only have a problem on the telephone, or with television, or only in background noise. You may have the perception that you’re hearing fine, if other people would just stop mumbling.
In addition to not noticing the hearing loss, denial can also occur. Denial can take the form of denying the loss altogether, or understating its impact. If you’ve made statements such as “I hear well enough most of the time” or “My hearing loss is not bothersome to me,” you may be minimizing the effect of your hearing loss. Denial is a common reaction, but it just delays finding a solution.
If you’re not sure whether you need hearing aids, speak with your family members and close friends to see how they feel your hearing is. Sometimes, family members and friends are more affected by your loss than you are, because they have to make accommodations for your hearing loss. They may need to repeat what they say, face you when they speak to you, and in some instances, act as your interpreter when you’ve missed something. If they feel frustrated or compromised by your loss, you may want to consider that in your decision to seek hearing loss treatment.
There is research indicating that the “use it or lose it” principle may apply to our ears. Delaying the use of hearing aids, which essentially deprives the ears of auditory stimuli at normal levels, can lead to a degradation of word recognition. In other words, an ear that hasn’t been stimulated due to untreated hearing loss loses some of its ability to understand normal conversation. Fortunately, this same research indicates that this degradation may be reversible in some cases with hearing aids.
The National Council on Aging released a study in 1999 on 2,300 individuals with hearing loss who were over the age of 50. The overall results were "... those with untreated hearing loss were more likely to report depression, anxiety, and paranoia and were less likely to participate in organized social activities, compared to those who wear hearing aids." This same study found that with hearing aid use, improvements were seen in relationships, self-confidence, social life, self-esteem, and many other aspects of people’s lives – not just hearing.
Hearing loss tends to get worse gradually. As with most health conditions, earlier diagnosis and treatment of hearing loss usually leads to the most successful outcomes. Since the negative effects of untreated hearing loss are well documented, the benefits of seeking treatment are proven, and hearing aids not only help you hear better but also improve the quality of your life - if you need them, what are you waiting for?