“One of my good friends has a hearing problem, and it’s obvious to everyone (including herself). She went in for a hearing test and seemed happy to find out she was a good candidate for hearing aids. However, when I asked her about it later, she said ‘I’m not ready yet,’ but wouldn’t tell me why. What’s holding my friend back?"
Dr. Tedeschi’s Answer:
First of all, I commend you for being concerned about your friend’s hearing health. I know it’s difficult to watch someone you care about struggle with her hearing, especially when she understands that it doesn’t have to be this way. So, why do people avoid or delay a decision to embrace hearing aids? I’d like to address some of the top reasons.
Reason #1: Concerns about what other people might think
Many individuals don’t want others to know they have a hearing problem. Sometimes they believe hearing aids will make them look old or disabled. Here’s what they may not realize:
- Hearing aids are less obvious than the signs of untreated hearing loss, such as frequently asking others to repeat themselves, turning up the TV too loud for others in the same household or avoiding noisy social situations.
- Today’s hearing aids are smaller and more discreet than ever; some even fit entirely inside the ear canal, completely out of sight.
- Consider the popularity of devices, such as Bluetooth® wireless earbuds, that are worn in the ears by people of all ages. The line between those trendy devices and hearing aids has definitely been blurred!
Above all, once your friend experiences the life-enhancing benefits of hearing aids in everyday life, I’m confident that her concerns will fade away.
Reason #2: Outdated or incorrect notions about hearing aids
Your friend may recall the stories of a parent or grandparent who owned hearing aids, but complained about them or simply didn’t wear them. Common issues included squealing/whistling, unnatural sound (especially the wearer’s own voice), too much amplification of background noise and physical discomfort with the devices.
These and other complaints have all but vanished with recent advances in technology and fitting techniques. Today’s hearing aids deliver clear, amazingly natural sound, as well as selective amplification and automatic digital noise reduction that minimizes interference from background noise. In addition, the latest fitting techniques help ensure long-lasting comfort with all types of devices, whether worn in the ear canal or behind the ear.
Plus, the latest hearing aids do a lot of things that previously weren’t possible. Does your friend use a smartphone, tablet or laptop computer? Wireless connectivity could enable her to stream clear audio from her favorite device directly to the hearing aids. Maybe she dislikes the idea of changing the batteries in her hearing aids. Now she can choose from numerous rechargeable hearing aids, providing a full day of listening on a single overnight charge. The list of remarkable innovations goes on and on!
Reason #3: Believing their hearing loss isn’t bad enough
Even after accepting their hearing loss, some people — perhaps even your friend — may minimize the problem. Individuals generally lose their hearing gradually, and they may compensate for the increasing loss by reading lips, trying to fill gaps in sentences, or other tactics. Meanwhile, family, friends and coworkers may be inconvenienced or annoyed by behaviors related to the hearing loss. Your friend also should be aware that untreated hearing loss, even if it’s mild, may increase a person’s risk for significant, life-altering health conditions, including depression, dementia and injury-causing falls. For more detail on this topic, I encourage you to read an excellent article written by my Amplifon colleague, audiologist Dr. Carrie Meyer.
Some individuals don’t believe hearing aids are appropriate for their type of hearing loss. The fact is, 95% of sensorineural hearing loss, the most common type of hearing loss, can be helped with hearing aids. A hearing evaluation by a licensed professional will determine the type and degree of hearing loss and which kind of hearing aids would be appropriate.
Reason #4: Price of hearing aids and how to pay for them
I realize that investing in high-quality hearing aids can strain a person’s budget. Hearing aid prices typically range from under $1,000 to more than $4,000, depending on the level of technology. However, it’s important to understand that the purchase price includes far more than just the devices. For example, if your friend has an Amplifon benefit, she will also receive follow-up care to ensure a smooth transition to her new hearing aids, a supply of batteries or a charging station to keep the hearing aids powered and a 3-year warranty covering loss, repairs or damage.* Also, the prices of hearing aids reflect what they truly are: miniaturized marvels of technology! I like to think of it this way: A pair of hearing aids costs between $1 and $7 per day over the span of three to five years. That’s a lot of bang for the buck when you consider the potential to change a person’s life!
If your friend has financial concerns, there are steps she can take to stay within her budget. For starters, she should inquire with her health insurer about whether her plan includes a hearing benefit, which can significantly decrease her out-of-pocket expense. Amplifon has an online form where she can check her coverage. In addition, she may have a flex spending account (FSA) or health savings account (HSA); funds in these accounts may be used for hearing aids and hearing health care services. Your friend also should ask her provider about any financing programs, which may even include an interest-free option.
How you can be a hearing health care resource
I hope I’ve helped you understand some of the reasons why your friend is hesitant to move forward with a solution to her hearing loss. Perhaps by sharing this article with her, you can help her overcome these concerns. When the time is right, you may also want to have a heart-to-heart conversation. For guidance, I suggest reading Dr. Meyer’s recent article on this topic; although it’s specifically about discussing a loved one’s hearing loss, many of the points certainly apply to a close friend.
Lastly, if your friend is covered by an Amplifon benefit, encourage her to schedule a hearing evaluation with one of the hearing health care providers in our nationwide network. She could even complete and submit our easy online appointment request form. Once she does, a Patient Care Advocate will get in touch with her.
*Follow-up care for one year after purchase. Batteries: 2-year supply of batteries (80 cells/ear/year) or one standard charger at no additional cost. Warranty: Exclusions and limitations may apply. Contact Client Services (1-844-267-5436) for details.