It’s a proven fact that hearing aids work, and today’s hearing aids work better than ever thanks to advanced digital technology and features such as artificial intelligence, directional microphones and rechargeable batteries.
So what’s stopping millions of Americans from wearing hearing aids? The average person waits five to seven years before seeking help. Is it the stigma associated with hearing aids and age? Is it the cost? Or is something else going on?
According to the website hearwellstayvital.org, there are 48 million individuals who have hearing loss in the U.S. Most people assume these individuals are “old,” but that’s not really the case. In fact, 62 percent are younger than 65! Here are some common reasons these individuals don’t wear hearing aids or get their hearing checked.
1. My hearing is fine. I don’t need hearing aids.
For many, many people, hearing loss occurs gradually over a number of years, and often, it’s just not as noticeable to the individual as it is to their family and friends. If others frequently tell you that you’re missing out on important parts of conversations, or you’re not enjoying social gatherings or entertainment as much as you used to, you may have a hearing loss and should get your hearing checked. Even if your hearing checks out, it’s a good idea to have a baseline hearing evaluation so if you feel like your hearing changes in the future, you’ll having something to compare it to.
2. My hearing loss only affects my ears.
If you think that what’s going on with your ears doesn’t affect the rest of your body, think again. Not treating hearing loss increases the risk of cognitive decline, dementia, falls, social isolation, and depression. 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 hearing loss may affect spatial awareness. A study published in 2018 in the journal JAMA Otolaryngology Head & Neck Surgery found that among adults 50 and older, those with hearing loss were about 30 percent more likely to experience a fall. About 40 percent were more likely to be depressed and about 50 percent were more likely to develop dementia over the 10-year study period. There’s also significant evidence that hearing loss is connected to diabetes and heart disease.
3. I can’t afford hearing aids.
There is a wide range of prices for hearing aids, depending on the features you select and the technology. At Associated Audiologists, we have hearing aids for every budget, starting at $675 per ear for private pay. If you have insurance that covers some or all of the cost of hearing aids, that also can be very helpful. In addition, remember that when properly cared for, hearing aids can last five to seven years. If you pay $4,000 for a pair of mid-range hearing aids, and they last you five years, that’s about $2.20 a day for something you use daily to hear better—that’s much less than a grand latte or smoothie every morning! In fact, hearing aids cost less over time than what most individuals spend on their smartphones and monthly mobile phone services. For those who qualify, financing options also are available to help make hearing aids more affordable.
4. My friend’s hearing aids didn’t work for him. They won’t work for me.
The hearing aids your friend was fit with may not be the best hearing aids for you. Be aware that most of the major hearing aid manufacturers have different product lines and features, which are sold via different marketing channels. They aren’t all created equal. For example, the latest technology is usually available first via private practice clinics, like Associated Audiologists. The same manufacturer may offer hearing aids at a big box store, but those hearing aids are typically older technology or not the premium option available in private venues. Be sure you ask when the hearing aids you are considering buying were released, and whether they can be serviced at other audiology clinics. Some hearing aids sold in warehouse or retail environments are locked (locked software), and can only be serviced at those establishments, while technology sold in private clinics is usually open technology that can be worked on by other audiologists or hearing professionals. This can be an important feature if you travel frequently, and might need your hearing aids serviced in another community.
5. I don’t know where to start. There are so many offers and ads out there. I’m afraid I’ll make a mistake.
It’s true there are lots and lots of hearing aids out there, and lots and lots of ads and direct mail promoting them. How do you know if you’re making the right choice? The first step is to find an audiologist you trust and establish a relationship with them, ideally before you ever need hearing aids. An audiologist evaluates, recommends and fits hearing aids. Patients who work with doctoral-level audiologists generally report a higher level of satisfaction with their overall clinic experience, and are more satisfied with their technology. Only doctoral-level audiologists work with Associated Audiologists, so you can expect consistent providers you know who offer quality care and products.
Audiologists receive extensive education in hearing and balance disorders. They have earned postgraduate masters and/or doctoral degrees. A doctoral degree is now required for graduates practicing after 2012. You may look for the initials Au.D., (Doctor of Audiology—clinical degree); or Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy—research and/or clinical research degree); to designate doctoral training.
As part of their four-year doctoral training, audiologists spend a final year completing an externship experience supervised by a licensed audiologist. The externship provides practical, hands-on, advanced experience.