While many advocates work tirelessly to provide education and assistance around hearing loss, it continues to be a murky topic in our society. According to a recent study by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, most Americans tend to rank hearing health as a major priority. And yet, while 50% of Americans report difficulty hearing only 11% have sought treatment.
We fully understand that hearing is an important part of our lives, but barriers still remain between recognizing we need help and seeking it out. To clear up some of that murkiness and to make it easier to access hearing help, here are a few questions you might have about treating hearing loss that you’re too afraid to ask.
Q: My hearing loss makes conversation difficult, but I’m afraid to get a hearing consultation or intervene because it seems really overwhelming.
A: Being intimidated by the idea of confronting hearing loss is a totally normal response that many people have. On average, people wait a decade between the arrival of hearing loss and the decision to treat it with hearing aids. Unfortunately, for many of us, our hearing has to get really bad — and cause damage in our lives — before we decide to take action.
While scheduling a hearing consultation can be scary, it is always better to know what your options are rather than ignoring the problem.
Q: If I find out I do have hearing loss, will I be forced to get hearing aids?
A: The way you choose to handle the results of your hearing test are totally up to you. You don’t have to choose hearing aids as an intervention. If your level of hearing loss warrants them, though, hearing aids can be very helpful. A vast majority of hearing aid wearers report improved relationships and would recommend hearing aids to a friend.
But there are other ways a diagnosis of hearing loss can help you improve your hearing reality, even without hearing aids. You can make a connection with an audiologist to get a realistic view of what all of your options are. You may join or connect with a support group for people with hearing loss, who can provide emotional support and combat feelings of isolation as you learn to live with your condition. Using your diagnosis to opt for hearing assistive devices at the theater or other community events can add vibrancy and choices to your life.
Q: Does hearing loss that comes on later in life lead to complete deafness?
A: No, it is unlikely that midlife onset hearing loss will result in a total loss of hearing. It is logical for a non-expert to assume that if the decline of your hearing has continued downward, that trend will steadily advance until your hearing is totally gone. However, experts agree that the most common trend is sensorineural hearing loss (or age-related hearing loss), is that hearing will decline up to a point, steadying once a plateau is reached which will likely remain your level of hearing — less than before, but not completely gone — for the remainder of your life.
Q: Do hearing aids make me look older?
A: Hearing aids have come a long way, baby. Today’s versions are smarter, sleeker and more subtle than ever before. So, they probably won’t be the first thing a person notices about you and we certainly don’t think they make you look older.
But we do understand that there is an old-fashioned stigma around hearing aids. For the record, we think saying “Speak up!” or “What was that?” or “I can’t hear you!” over and over again can add a few years onto folks. Not to mention that adding ease back into communicating and connecting can help us feel more vibrant, no matter what our age is.
Ask a hearing specialist
Our team of highly trained hearing health professionals are happy to answer any question you might have about hearing consultations, solutions or any of the myriad topics related to hearing loss. We are passionate and committed to our mission of helping people hear better and we’d love to start a conversation with you.