It may have happened gradually over time, or maybe you’re hoping it will improve if you just concentrate a little harder. Whatever the reason, you’re not hearing as well as you used to -- and you are reluctant to get help.
You’re not alone. Hearing health professionals estimate the average person waits seven years from the time they realize they have a hearing problem until they decide to do something about it.
One of the most common reasons people wait to seek help is because they fear wearing hearing aids will make them look old. In reality, many of today’s hearing aid models are virtually undetectable and fit invisibly inside the ear canal. Although not all types of hearing loss can be improved with these models, behind the ear models have come a long way, too. Many of them are designed with sleeker, rounded shapes and colors that match a variety of skin tones.
Of course, some hearing aid manufacturers cater to creative individuals with bold colored devices. Regardless of your preference – invisible or colorful accessory – there are a variety of options to choose from. You look a lot younger when you can hear what’s going on and can participate effectively in the conversation than you do when you struggle to hear and continually ask friends and family to repeat themselves.
Another reason hearing impaired individuals don’t seek help is because they mistakenly believe hearing aids won’t improve their hearing. The most common type of hearing loss – sensorineural – is most often associated with aging and typically treated with hearing aids. Sensorineural hearing loss is caused by a problem with either the cochlea (sensory) or the hearing nerve (neural). Hearing aids won’t restore your hearing to normal like eyeglasses restore sight to 20/20, but in many cases they can improve your hearing and listening skills.
Many times, individuals delay purchasing hearing aids because of their expense. The cost of digital hearing aids begins at $800 and goes up from there, depending upon the manufacturer and type of technology it contains. Although most insurance policies, including Medicare, do not cover the cost of purchasing hearing aids, some do. Check with your insurance company to see what your policy covers and what your options are if it doesn’t. Other assistance may be available through veteran’s organizations, union halls and local service organizations, such as the Rotary Club or Lion’s Club.
Hearing loss affects more than your interpersonal skills – it also affects your earning potential. If you’re still working and your hearing loss interferes with your ability to perform your job, ask your company about vocational rehabilitation. These programs, funded by the state and federal government in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, often provide funds for the purchase of hearing aids depending upon your ability to pay for them and the direct effect your hearing loss has on job performance.
Finally, some individuals don’t take the time to educate themselves on hearing loss – or believe it’s a normal part of aging that they can’t do anything about. Hearing is an important part of our lives. People who don’t hear well experience a higher rate of anxiety, depression and isolation than those who do.
Consider this. It’s estimated that more than 26.7 million Americans over the age of 50 have some type of hearing loss, but only 14 percent of them actually use hearing aids. Of those who do, 76 percent say they enjoy better quality of life. The road to better hearing begins with a trip to your local hearing center, where a qualified audiologist can perform a detailed evaluation. Once you know why you aren’t hearing as well as you used to, you can take measures to improve it.