Hearing connects us to each other and the world. We often pay little attention to this sense because it’s involuntary and automatic. Like vision, hearing gradually declines as we get older. The typical clues are increasing the volume of the television and frequently asking others to repeat themselves; both equally frustrating for the person and their friends and family.
We tend to wait an average of seven years from once we suspect we might have a hearing loss to actually taking action and doing something to correct it, which 90% of the time is the use of hearing aids. Stigma, negative word-of-mouth and cost have been the key reasons for not doing something sooner.
Globally we think of hearing aids only for seniors and to purchase one before our 70th or 80th birthdays would be admitting our age and mortality. However people of all ages wear hearing aids. Infants in the United States are screened for hearing loss within two days of their birth and fit with hearing aids within six months as to not delay their language development. The keys to adults and seniors correcting their hearing sooner rather than later is improving their quality of life and protecting their remaining hearing. In 1999 the National Council on Aging released the results of their extensive study on the effects of untreated hearing loss and discovered that those who did nothing about their hearing losses were SIGNIFICANTLY prone to depression, isolation and anger. People are social beings, we need each other for health and happiness. When we can’t hear and participate in events and conversations, we’re not happy.
Don’t we all know of a friend or two that has had a bad experience with hearing aids? I’ve heard for years from patients that they have a friend who spent A LOT of money on hearing aids only to be dissatisfied and put them in a drawer and never use them. I always hate hearing horror stories like these because I know they’re true, but I also know that there is more to the story. In all states the patient is protected when they are dissatisfied, they have thirty days to evaluate the hearing aids and decide if they want to keep them or not. In California there is a 100% refund guarantee that the patient will receive should they not want the hearing aids within thirty days of their last appointment. So when I hear the horror stories, I know that both parties are culpable, yet I still empathize with the patient who sought help and didn’t get it. Seeking help is work for both the patient and audiologist, the patient needs to use the hearing aids and follow the advice, counseling and expertise of the audiologist and the audiologist must ensure comfort and benefit.