Hearing Aids, part one: There’s a person attached to those hearing aids

Article by Glen Sutherland, MCISc
Audiologist

My previous post reviewed sensori-neural hearing loss and introduced you to the subject of hearing aids. If you have not already done so, you might find it helpful to read my previous posts. In the next few posts I will provide you with more information about hearing aids in hopes of helping you buy the best hearing aids for you and of helping you adjust to the hearing aids with realistic expectations.

Hearing is such an important sense to most of us! It connects us with so many aspects of our day-to-day world; family and friends, music, television and radio and other sounds in our environment.

Good hearing helps to keep us safe! It may warn us of potential danger in many situations such as when we’re driving, walking on busy streets or hearing alarms and smoke detectors, to name a few.

Really, take a moment and consider how your hearing helps your function well during your busy day on the telephone, at meetings and lectures, during religious services, at the theatre and at gatherings with family and friends. Hearing enables us to socialize, interact and communicate.

When hearing loss is present, it can diminish our quality of life. Problems with our hearing may lead to feelings of annoyance and anxiety at first; and later to feelings of loneliness and even depression. People who experience hearing loss may find they withdraw from communication and social situations and eventually, they isolate themselves completely.

At first, individuals tend to deny that they are losing their hearing. They ignore the signs of hearing loss for awhile. Some signs of hearing loss include but are not limited to:
• Having trouble hearing during phone conversations
• Turning the TV up louder; especially if people are noticing
• Thinking most people are mumbling
• Having trouble hearing in crowded or noisy environments
• Asking people to repeat what they are saying
• Misunderstanding conversations
• Family members and/or friends telling you that you are not listening
• Withdrawing from social situations

Eventually, they decide to get their hearing tested to find out if there is a hearing loss present. In fact, it has been determined that the average person waits 7 years before seeking help.

When you get your hearing tested, you undergo a series of tests which help the clinician ascertain which type of hearing loss you have. The results of the tests also help the clinician recommend how you can best be helped depending on your type of hearing loss.

It’s estimated that ten per cent of the Canadian population has hearing loss. That’s approximately 3.3 million Canadians. Approximately 95 per cent of those who can no longer hear well have a sensori-neural hearing loss. Close to fifty per cent of Canadians over the age of 65 have some degree of hearing loss.

In the vast majority of cases, sensori-neural hearing loss is not medically or surgically treatable. However, most people with sensori-neural loss notice a great deal of benefit from wearing some form of amplification device (traditional hearing aids, bone-anchored hearing aid (BAHA), cochlear implants, etc.).

Most people who have sensori-neural hearing loss purchase traditional hearing aids. Unfortunately, only 15 – 20% of people who require hearing aids are getting the help they need.

Hearing aids can improve the quality of your life. Nearly 95 per cent of people with sensori-neural hearing loss can be helped with the use of hearing instruments. A National Council on Aging (NCOA) survey regarding ‘hearing loss and older adults’ found that when people began to use hearing aids, many saw improvements in various aspects of their lives including mental health, social life, self-esteem, personal relationships and overall health. Family members reported an average of 15 per cent greater benefit than the hearing aid wearers, which indicates that family members and friends notice significant positive changes when their loved ones get hearing aids.

Hearing aids have come a long way over the years. Today, there are many makes and models to accommodate just about everyone. If you think a picture of the different types of hearing aids would be helpful while you read this post, simply, type, “hearing aids, makes and models” into your favourite browser and you will see many links to pictures of hearing aids.

When you buy hearing aids these days, you are buying a tiny computer which can be adjusted to fit your specific hearing loss and provide you with the maximum help you need. These new digital hearing aids provide a clear, comfortable sound and can be programmed to automatically reduce annoying background noise in changing environments.

While the hearing aids will eventually help you a great deal, it takes training and patience to improve your ability to understand through hearing aids. In fact, research indicates that it takes the brain several months to adjust to listening through hearing aids. However, in time you will adjust well to your new hearing aids which will increase your ability to participate more fully in day-to-day listening activities.

More on that in my next post! Stay tuned!

Disclaimer
Please note that the information in this blog is presented for the purpose of providing information and should not be used for medical diagnosis or treatment nor should it be used in place of medical advice from your doctor or hearing health care professional.

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