Hearing Loss — What’d You Say?

Like weight loss, hearing loss is a personal journey. It’s a personal journey many of us elders deal with every day.

There’s a huge misconception that if you wear hearing aids, you can hear like someone who doesn’t. Hearing aids only improve a challenged person’s hearing up to 80%. We can easily miss up to 20% or more of what is being said even with hearing aids.

Another huge misconception is that if you talk louder, a hearing-impaired person has a better chance of hearing you. Again, this isn’t the case for most of us with hearing aids. It’s more an issue of tone and how distinctly someone speaks than it is about volume.

A third little-known misconception about people with hearing issues – both those with and without hearing aids – is that if, for instance, I can’t hear a baritone, that doesn’t automatically mean I can’t hear sounds below a baritone. In other words, think of hearing as a musical scale. I may not hear a specific note but may well hear a note or two above or below that note. It’s not linear; it’s splotchy.

Hearing Loss is Emotional

I’ll never forget the day, fifteen years ago, when I learned I needed hearing aids. While I boo-hoo’d to my friend about feeling old, she expressed joyously, “Well, now you’ll be able to hear!” Talk about looking at the glass as half-empty vs. half full. Ha! I’ve learned over time how much my hearing aids have kept me participating in the world, and I am grateful. That doesn’t mean it was a snap for me to get used to the idea of a stereotypically old person crutch, something that signified my body was deteriorating. Today I’m blown away by the technology that keeps my hearing props small, nearly invisible, and functioning at a superior level. Granted, hearing aids are expensive, but time will reduce the cost as new technologies are developed. Plus, many health care providers cover some of the cost of hearing aids.

People getting used to hearing aids may feel helpless or depressed, and the adjustment period may make us angry or frustrated. These are all normal reactions, but, with a little time and effort, anyone can get through this tricky transition.

It’s typical that men, in general, have more difficulty acknowledging hearing loss and doing something about it. However, it you’re a guy who proudly wears their hearing aids without a second thought, congrats! Often times the guys will get the aids but then leave them on the dresser or in the bathroom and ‘forget’ them so often they’re rendered unhelpful. You see, the brain has to be trained to the hearing aids, and if you don’t wear them constantly, some of the noise messages going from the ears to the brain are missed entirely. If you’re a guy with this problem or know of a guy who resists wearing his aids, encourage him gently and be patient with him.

If hearing loss is negatively affecting your life, get some support from others who you know wear hearing aids.

Hearing loss is treatable. Life is too short to miss out on the laughter of grandkids or the sound of the ocean or birds chirping or your favorite music.