“I was planning to see an audiologist about my hearing loss, and then COVID-19 put my plans on hold! Is now a good time to reschedule my appointment? My hearing definitely needs help, but I don’t want to take any undue risks with my health.”
Dr. Meyer’s Answer:
While there’s no easy one-size-fits-all answer to this question, I can tell you that many hearing health care professionals have reopened their doors and are caring for their patients effectively and safely.
Before rescheduling your appointment, inquire about the protocols your provider has adopted to protect the health of patients and staff. Most offices are taking a multipronged approach that includes the sanitation of surfaces between appointments, frequent handwashing and social distancing, as well as the use of disposable items, face masks, clear plastic barriers and personal protective equipment.
You may also want to ask whether the provider offers certain services via “telehealth” (e.g. by phone, video chat or remote connection). Keep in mind that telehealth may reduce the number of in-person visits, but it won’t eliminate them entirely.
By the way, many providers now wear special “communicator” face masks when interacting with patients. The masks feature a fog-resistant clear window over the mouth area — a benefit if you supplement your hearing with lip reading.
Waiting creates threats to health and well-being
You admitted that you need help with your hearing — and I applaud you for that! All too often, people don’t recognize the extent of their hearing loss, or they may deny the problem altogether. (I suggest reading our article entitled “Just how bad is your hearing loss?”)
One of the most common statements by a person with hearing loss is: “It’s not that bad — I’ll deal with it later.” In the COVID-19 era, we may also hear the words “I’m going to wait until the crisis is over” (whenever that might be).
Meanwhile, hearing loss doesn’t get better with time. In fact, it often gets worse. And the longer hearing loss goes untreated, the more it threatens a person’s mental, emotional and physical health.
As I’ve written in this blog previously, we’re learning so much about the profound effects of untreated hearing loss on many aspects of health and well-being. We know it causes people to become socially isolated and lonely. We know it increases the risk of serious and costly health conditions, including dementia, depression and injury-causing falls. We know it can tear apart relationships between spouses and other family members.
Having said all this, I understand why you may be reluctant to visit a hearing health care professional during these uncertain times. However, by visiting a reputable provider who adheres to strong safety standards, I believe it’s possible to address hearing loss with peace of mind. But if you’re still not sure, I recommend seeking guidance from your primary care physician.
Four tips for hearing health care success
I want to leave you with four tips that can help you navigate hearing health care and realize the best possible results during the COVID-19 era:
TIP #1: Do some homework prior to your appointment.
A bit of pre-appointment research, using reliable information sources, can give you a basic understanding of hearing aid choices and how they might fit your lifestyle. You’ll find an excellent primer article, “How to buy hearing aids during COVID-19,” on our website. As you’re reading, write down questions you want to ask during your appointment. It’s important to remember that the best hearing aid for you can only be determined after a full hearing evaluation and consultation with your provider.
To help make your visit as efficient and productive as possible, you may want to read an article and watch a video we prepared on what you should expect at your hearing care appointment. It explains how to prepare for an appointment and what typically happens during a visit with a provider.
TIP #2: Ask about technology to address new challenges.
Hearing aid manufacturers are constantly developing technologies to address new communication challenges, including those arising from the pandemic. For example, many hearing aids now feature wireless streaming of audio from smartphones, tablets and computers — ideal if you’re spending more time on video chat with family, friends or business associates. You can also ask your provider how to set your hearing aids for listening to people who are wearing a face mask.
Your provider will help you zero in on the hearing aid model and features that do the best job of addressing your hearing loss, lifestyle and preferences.
TIP #3: Mask up…and listen up!
Face masks have become standard, even mandated, “attire” in states and communities across the country, in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19. However, for many individuals, face masks pose challenges to the wearing of hearing aids. Certain styles of hearing aids are more compatible with hearing aids than others; your hearing care provider will help you determine which style is best for you, based on a number of factors.
If possible, choose a face mask that ties around the back of your head (vs. one with ear loops). You can also modify a mask with ear loops to minimize interference with your hearing aids. For detailed guidance, check out our article about wearing a face mask with hearing aids.
TIP #4: Wear your new hearing aids every day, even at home.
Like a lot of people these days, you’re probably spending more time at home and less time socializing with family and friends. I bring this up because some individuals mistakenly believe they only need hearing aids when they’re out in public. In fact, there are many good reasons to wear hearing aids at home, including:
- You don’t want to miss important sounds, such as a smoke detector beeping, carbon monoxide alarm or severe weather alert
- It’s a courtesy to other people in your household, who otherwise may be annoyed at having to repeat themselves or when you turn up the TV volume too loud
- Home is actually the very best place to get used to your hearing aids, because it’s a controlled environment with familiar voices (your loved ones!)
- Quite simply, the more you wear your hearing aids, the better your ears and brain adjust to amplification
Are you ready to take the next step?
Of course, you should be concerned about protecting your health. The good news is, addressing your hearing loss doesn’t have to be a risky proposition. When you’re ready to take the next step, we’ll be ready to help you. Click here to request an appointment with a hearing care provider near you.