By our Smarty friends at Charlotte Eye Ear Nose & Throat Associates, P.A.
The holiday season means spending time with our families. However, we may notice our parents and older relatives having a harder time hearing this year. Fayne Fischer, MA, FAAA, CCC-A of Charlotte Eye Ear Nose & Throat Associates, P.A. joins us this month to discuss the importance of healthy hearing and how to convince our relatives of the importance of hearing aids.
Is hearing loss common in older people?
About 20 percent of Americans, or 48 million people, report some degree of hearing loss. Once people reach the age of 60, that estimate changes to one in four. Over the age of 65 it’s one in three, and over 70 it’s one in two.
Why might people think they don’t need hearing aids even if they do? Is hearing loss gradual? Is it something other people would notice before the patient themselves would?
Many times those who feel they do not need hearing aids don’t think they have a hearing problem. Instead, they may complain that others mumble or do not speak clearly, for example. Hearing loss is often gradual over many years, so those with hearing loss don’t recognize the signs. However, others may notice the hearing-impaired person has the volume of the TV too loud or that they have lost the ability to hear soft background sounds such as a clock ticking, birds chirping or the turn signal in the car.
Often there may be an incident that will finally convince the person to have their hearing tested. For example, we had one patient who could not hear the siren of an ambulance behind them while driving. Many times a spouse has finally had enough with their husband or wife not hearing them and sends them in to have their hearing tested. I have also had a few patients purchase hearing aids because they could not hear their spouse, whose voice was weak from a serious illness.
It may take a person seven years from the time that they recognize they have a hearing problem to finally doing something about getting hearing aids.
Why is it important to wear hearing aids?
Research has shown that there is a link to hearing loss and memory issues. A pair of studies from Johns Hopkins University found that hearing loss is associated with accelerated cognitive decline in older adults. Seniors with hearing loss are significantly more likely to develop dementia over time than those who retain their hearing. A third study revealed a link between hearing loss and accelerated brain tissue loss. Hearing aids could potentially delay or prevent dementia, but research is still ongoing.
Hearing loss can lead to isolation. A person may not want to contribute to a conversation if they didn’t hear what others said. They don’t want to embarrass themselves by giving a wrong answer, so they withdraw from group gatherings and conversations. This isolation and depression are risk factors for memory issues.
How much do hearing aids improve hearing? Is it a significant/notable improvement?
Hearing aids can make a huge difference in the quality of life not only of the wearer but for their family members and friends, too. The comment that I probably hear most is, “Why did I wait so long to obtain hearing aids? If I knew it was going to be like this, I would have gotten them sooner rather than waiting.”
How can you convince someone who thinks hearing aids are too unattractive/useless/expensive that they should actually get them?
Hearing aids today are very discreet and attractive and often cannot be detected by others.
Technology has also improved greatly over the years. Many potential wearers have the image of their grandfather or grandmother wearing older technology and visualizing their frustration with the devices. Today’s technology allows the hearing aid to be self-adjusting so a wearer does not have to push buttons on the device to help them hear in different situations. They also have better tools to help extract speech from background noise so wearers can understand conversations in restaurants, group situations, etc.
Hearing aids come in various price ranges to help meet different needs and lifestyles. If an individual is mostly in a quiet environment they may not want to pay for, or need, features that others may need to help them hear in noisy environments.
If a patient cannot afford hearing aids in North Carolina, there are state organizations that may help patients purchase them if they meet certain qualifications. CEENTA’s audiology department will help them navigate this process when they come in for a hearing test. Unfortunately, South Carolina does not have the same organizations.
If someone purchases hearing aids but does not like them, they can return them. They will get a refund, minus a fee of $350 for use of the device during the first month and related office visits during that trial period. Here at CEENTA we do not want a patient keeping devices they are unhappy with. If they opt to try something else, they can do that and will not be penalized.
Mrs. Fischer is an audiologist who graduated with a Master’s degree in Audiology from the University of Connecticut. She practices in our Matthews office. To make an appointment with Mrs. Fischer or any of our audiologists, call 704-295-3000.