Hearing loss is the third most prevalent chronic health condition facing adults in the U.S. and has been known to affect emotional and physical wellbeing. Unfortunately, many people with hearing loss delay visiting a doctor or hearing professional. On average, it takes about 4 years for someone to act after they notice a hearing difficulty.1 That’s a pretty long time to live with a medical condition, especially one that creates a communication barrier.
There are many reasons why someone may not want to acknowledge or act on their hearing loss. It could be the stigma associated with wearing hearing aids, thinking their hearing is “good enough”, or financial worries. We’ll touch on these points and more in the following list of topics you can discuss with your loved one while encouraging them to seek help. It’s important to get help with hearing loss as soon as possible to ensure important sounds are not lost in their daily routine.
They may have learned coping methods like turning up the TV or avoiding noisy restaurants or other situations, and may not notice the small sounds that they once took for granted. Many people cite hearing birds, the doorbell, and their cell phone again once they wear hearing aids. Proper hearing aid use brings improved quality of life, including a better outlook on mood, mobility, independence, communication, and social interaction.
For adults with self-perceived mild to moderate hearing loss, an over-the-counter (OTC) device could also be an option. Even small amounts of amplification can make a big difference. Though it is still very important to visit a hearing professional before making treatment decisions to ensure you are purchasing the best option for your unique hearing loss.
Actually, around 62% of people who have hearing loss in the U.S. are younger than 65. No matter what stage of life you’re in, hearing loss is possible by exposure to loud noise, injury, illness, genetics, and even some medications. Luckily, hearing aid technology has made huge strides when it comes to appearance. Most styles are hard to see on the wearer due to nearly invisible tubing that connects the earpiece to the slim hearing aid case that sits behind the ear. Many manufacturers now provide options for the color of the hearing aid case, and you can select a color that matches your hair or skin tone.
Other than advancements in appearance as discussed above, hearing aids are tiny computers equipped with features that can connect you with the people and things you love. Most hearing aids are equipped with telecoil, or “T-coil”, which connects to a compatible phone, microphone accessory, or audio in a public space to help you hear especially in loud or echoing environments. More recently, Bluetooth has been installed in most of the popular brands of hearing aids to allow the user to stream calls and music directly from a phone or tablet to the hearing aids. Other helpful accessories and features are listed here.
Hearing aids are medical devices and must undergo thorough research and development processes to be compatible with our complex ability to hear. However, there are many types of quality hearing aids at various price points that can fit your needs and your budget. There are also several ways you can find help with paying for hearing aids, including through most Medicare Advantage Plans (Part C), through foundations and local service organizations, and through healthcare financing plans. And if you are a veteran, check to see if you are eligible for hearing care.
Adults with untreated hearing loss generate 46% more in healthcare costs over 10 years than those with healthy hearing.2 It pays to take care of your hearing as soon as you suspect a difficulty!
Untreated hearing loss increases the risk of social isolation, depression, cognitive decline, and falls. It's theorized that the "cognitive load" on the brain may take away resources the brain uses for other functions, such as short-term memory, and affects our ability of spatial awareness. According to recent research, untreated hearing loss is the top modifiable risk factor of developing dementia in later life.3
Having a hearing test is quick and simple, and there are many hearing care professionals around the country who are available for a consultation. Bringing a loved one is encouraged, so offering to come along to the appointment could provide a great deal of support. All major hearing aid brands have a trial period - typically 30 to 60 days - so your loved one can test out the newest technology using the trial and return privilege.
To find a hearing professional nearby, visit our Find a Hearing Professional webpage.