Believe it or not, even though hearing loss is a growing epidemic, millions still choose to not wear hearing aids even when they can directly benefit. It may sound strange, but surveys and studies have highlighted understandable grievances with their devices, giving audiologists and hearing aid companies needed feedback and insight on these products. With over 48 million Americans suffering from hearing loss, at least 25 million choose to forgo hearing aids altogether. The question is: why? Despite the obvious health benefits of using hearing aids, many find them unfashionable, uncomfortable, or that they don’t work as they expected, leading your loved ones to let their devices gather dust in a drawer somewhere. Hopefully, by addressing these concerns, health care professionals can raise the rate of hearing aid usage and help slow the progression of hearing loss as our patients’ age.
Despite advancements in technology, hearing aids still hold a stigma. According to a 2010 study on stigma and hearing loss conducted by The Gerontologist, an Oxford Academic journal, respondents expressed concerns about being seen as old or being stared at in public as reasons for why they did not wear their hearing aids. Fear of being seen as “disabled” or “too old” are serious concerns for those thinking about hearing aids, but public perception and technology has changed drastically over the years. Many will go completely undetected while wearing their hearing aids as designs have become sleeker, more inconspicuous, and with color choices that match your skin tone. If ageism is a concern, talk to friends and family about how your hearing aid improves your quality of life and makes it easier to communicate with them. They will certainly understand.
The comfortability of hearing aids can be a big problem, especially with older designs or devices that weren’t fitted properly. Behind-The-Ear devices may constantly fall out of place, and earmolds that aren’t fitted properly can cause sores or redness in the ear. New, sleeker designs are better suited for comfort, but even with new technology, many first-time users may find hearing aids an uncomfortable experience. Unfortunately, having something in or around your ear for the first time may take some getting used to. If you are having trouble getting acclimated to your new device, speak to a hearing health professional. They may recommend a gradual adjustment period, such as slowly increasing the hours a day they are worn to get more comfortable. After some time, your hearing aids will go completely unnoticed.
Many choose to avoid hearing aids because they don’t believe their devices provide enough benefit for the cost. If improvements are not recognized immediately, some may become frustrated or disenchanted, especially if they are already uncomfortable with their device. An audiologist may be able to reprogram or change the settings of your hearing aids to better suit your lifestyle. Unrealistic expectations are also a concern. Unfortunately, the fragile cells inside your ear are damaged permanently, and hearing aids can only aid in so many ways. Understanding the limit of technology may help when choosing whether hearing aids are right for you.
If you are struggling to decide whether hearing aids are the right choice for you, seek out the advice of a hearing health professional. Whether your concerns were addressed here, or you are worried about an entirely different scenario, an audiologist may be able to put those worries at ease.