There is so much health information out there. What is good for us one day is bad for us the next ... wait a few years and it will be good for us again. Seems like that anyway! When asked what is our most important sense, usually hearing and sight are given as the top two.
Interestingly, people will react differently to a problem with their vision in comparison to a problem with their hearing. This is due in part to society and what we have become accustomed to. From the time we are young children it is just known that if you can’t see then you will wear glasses or contacts. If our sight starts to shift as we get a little older then we get “readers” or “cheaters.” Surgery, such as Lasik or cataract, may also be a fix.
So when it comes to our vision, most of us have been conditioned to get annual vision tests and take corrective measures if necessary. We know it is important for annual check-ups to safeguard our vision. However, when a person gets a hearing loss there doesn’t seem to be a big urgency in correcting the problem. If people did seek help with their hearing as soon as possible then one in six adults in the U.S. would be sporting a hearing aid. Wow, 1 in 6 adults in our country has hearing loss that is correctable with a hearing device.
So why do we fix one of our important senses and not the other? One reason is because with a hearing loss, especially in the beginning stages, you can modify your environments to adapt to get by. You can turn up the TV or sit closer to what you are trying to listen to. With a vision problem, you may not be able to drive well or use the computer or read. Thus, the need to get the vision corrected may be more crucial to the individual. While short-term adaptations to help you compensate for hearing problems may work for a while, long-term untreated hearing loss has negative connotations on your quality of life and the impact can cause severe health issues.
Maybe the reason we jump to see better but not to hear better is because people don’t really know what to believe about hearing aids. So what is the truth? What is fact and what is fiction?
1. “There’s no treatment for hearing loss.” This is fiction. The “fact” is that hearing loss might be irreversible but it can be corrected. Correcting your hearing with hearing aids is the most effective and recommended option for someone with a hearing loss. In fact, 90-95% of hearing loss can be corrected with hearing aids. Hearing aids are custom and programmed by a qualified hearing health care provider. Hearing instruments today have digital signal computer chips with extremely broad bandwidth to provide the hearing impaired with sounds and speech signals that they would otherwise not hear.
2. “My doctor would have told me if I needed a hearing aid.” This is also fiction. Most general family doctors don’t have the time to test for hearing. Only 23% of people recently surveyed reported getting an annual hearing evaluation from a family doctor. In fact, the CDC/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued statements in February 2019 for the importance for primary care physicians to be more diligent in catching hearing loss in the early stages. They further went on to remind primary care providers to make referrals to hearing health care providers if patients show or report hearing problems.
3. “Hearing aids are hard to use.” Of course, this is fiction. Advancements in technology and science provide hearing aids with the ability to distinguish between speech and noise, detect sound direction and adjust to automatically to changing environments. The instruments are fit and programmed by a hearing health care provider to your specific unique needs.
4. “Hearing aids will make me feel old or stick out in a group.” Hmmm ... fiction. First of all, When you constantly interrupt people because you didn’t know they were talking, or constantly asking someone to repeat, that makes you look old. Sitting and not partaking in the conversation, that makes you look old. Today’s hearing aids are small, very small. There are now hearing aids that fit deep in your ear canal and are really invisible. Many people wear Bluetooth devices in their ears to walk and workout so at least the stigma of “something in your ear” to aid in hearing has helped to ease the stigma somewhat.
5. “Hearing aids aren’t worth it.” Fiction! The best way to find this out is to get your hearing tested and wear hearing aids. Do you have a friend who wears hearing aids? Talk to them. Ask those who have treated their hearing loss what they think. What do they like? What do they dislike? Arm yourself with some useful information. Remember to be proactive with your health.
To hear better is to live better!
Roseann B. Kiefer, B.A., BC-HIS, is owner of Lampe and Kiefer Hearing Aid Center, Sebring. This information is not intended to prevent, diagnose, treat or cure your condition. Always talk to your doctor before following any medical advice or starting a diet or exercise program.