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The last straw: What made you get hearing aids?

Contributed by | Monday, November 24th, 2014

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Research indicates an individual with hearing loss waits an average of seven years after their diagnosis before purchasing hearing aids. The reasons vary from denial to the perception that wearing hearing aids make them look older.

According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), fewer than 30 percent of adults aged 70 and older who could benefit from hearings aids has ever used them. That percentage drops to 16 percent among adults age 20 to 69.

So what’s the last straw? What defining moment makes that 16 to 30 percent walk into their hearing healthcare professional’s office and say “OK – I’m ready.” We wanted to know, so we posted a question on Facebook not long ago asking our readers to share their reasons why they finally decided to get hearing aids. Here’s what they told us. 

hearing aid final straw
Whether it's for work or family,
 people with hearing loss often
reach that point where enough 
is enough. What was your final

straw?

Employment reasons

Facebook user Debbie Windsor Schmidt said she was having difficulty hearing at work. “I work in a surgery center where people wear masks and I couldn’t watch lips,” she said in her post. “I finally gave in and got one hearing aid in my worst ear.”

Sara Spoors Lundquist said she feared losing her job. “Working with children, I needed to hear what was going on,” she said.

According to the Better Hearing Institute (BHI), people with untreated hearing loss lose as much as $30,000 annually, depending on the severity of their hearing loss. BHI said as much as $176 billion in income is lost annually due to underemployment as a result of untreated hearing loss. That translates into an estimated $26 billion in unrealized federal taxes.

Fortunately, those who use hearing aids reduce the risk of losing income by as much as 90 to 100 percent if they have mild hearing loss and 65 to 77 percent if their hearing loss is moderate to severe. The BHI survey also found that those with severe hearing loss who wore hearing aids were twice as likely to be employed as those who did not.

Hearing aid costs are are eligible for flexible savings accounts (FSAs) and health savings accounts (HSAs). Those who are employed may also qualify for assistance to pay for hearing testing, follow up visits and the purchase of their hearing instruments from vocational rehabilitation.  

Quality of life

Not only can hearing aids improve your earning power at work, they can also improve your overall quality of life. Research by the National Council on Aging indicates hearing aids significantly improve the social, emotional, psychological and physical well being of those with mild-to-severe hearing loss. Untreated hearing loss can increase the risk of developing dementia, Alzheimer’s, depression, anxiety and social isolation in addition to severely complicating communication with friends and family. That’s why it’s important to seek help as soon as you suspect you are having problems with your hearing.

At least one type of hearing loss – presbycusis – occurs in both ears as a result of the aging process. Because of that, many individuals, such as reader Jack Nothdurft, Jr., don’t realize they’re having problems hearing until the situation is pronounced.

“I never knew how deaf I was,” he told us in his Facebook post. “A group of people would sound like a flock of feeding geese milling around.” Jack said he was unable to understand the person sitting across the table from him or the television. “There was a major difference after getting them (hearing aids),” he said. “The setting for tinnitus helps a lot. I can distinguish and understand people.”

Joanne Crutchfield posted that she wanted to be able to have a conversation without asking people to repeat themselves. “The comment was always 'can’t you hear?' It hurt my feelings a lot,” she said.

Hearing aid satisfaction

The good news is, no matter how long these individuals waited to get their hearing aids, they are all glad they finally did.

“I was walking at the park not long after and realized I was hearing the beautiful sound of birds,” Windsor Schmidt said. “I didn’t realize how bad my hearing was.”

Charles Kemp posted that his hearing problems started while he was in the Navy and progressed so slowly he didn’t notice it until almost 30 years later. “Aids have been my best friends now for almost ten years,” he told us.

And Michael Hebert, who told us he lost his hearing as the result of an accident at work, said he finally got his hearing aid after tiring of asking people to repeat things louder. “I got one and my life changed, so I got my second one,” he posted. “Life was better.”

“Thank you, God, for hearing aids!” Joanne Crutchfield said simply.

These comments are consistent with current research on hearing aid satisfaction. Thanks to improvements in technology, hearing aids are smaller and more discreet and better able to distinguish speech from background noise as well as connect easily to your favorite personal electronic device. Seventy-five percent of patients report at least one area of their life was improved by wearing hearing aids. Whether it’s work, family or leisure activities, these hearing aid users are glad they finally made the decision to improve their hearing. With odds like these, more than likely you will, too.

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