Taking the embarrassment out of using a hearing aid
The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) estimates that 30 million Americans age 12 and older have some level of hearing loss in both ears. As age increases, so do the percentages of people with hearing loss: 33 percent of those age 60 and older, and 50 percent of those age 85 and older, have some degree of hearing loss.
Symptoms of hearing loss include having trouble hearing on the phone, not being able to focus on a single conversation in a noisy room, frequently misunderstanding what people are saying, and needing to turn up the volume to hear the television. Hearing loss often occurs gradually, making it hard to notice the difference from one day to the next.
Among adults age 70 and older who could benefit from using a hearing aid, fewer than one in three has ever used them. The Hopkins Hearing Center at Johns Hopkins University speculates that older adults may feel embarrassed about not being able to understand conversations. They may be hesitant to wear bulky hearing devices because they don’t want others to know they have hearing loss. They may even consider themselves to be “abnormal.”
In truth, hearing loss is completely normal. It is a very common part of the aging process, just like getting gray hair. “Everyone with an active full life will experience hearing loss to some degree,” said Glenn Harbold, Shaker Heights resident and managing partner of Zounds Hearing in Mayfield Heights (216-377-3250). “Normal sound exposure over time naturally breaks down the hair follicles in our ears, leading to hearing loss.”
Zounds Hearing makes easier-to-use hearing aids at relatively low costs. Its devices help remove background noise and help to make sound clearer. It hold 57 patents for its hearing device designs. Said Harbold, “We make it easier for people to hear better.”
Hearing aids today are smaller and less obtrusive than they were in the past. Their performance has also increased, they are easier to program and adjust, and some even have rechargeable batteries and remote control operation. Competition in the industry has also caused prices to go down, making hearing aids more affordable.
It is a good idea to get your hearing checked at least once a year, just as you would your eyesight, even if you are not experiencing hearing loss. This will give you a baseline by which to measure future test results. Then, you can make your decision based on fact, not supposition. Many places, including Zounds, offer hearing tests at no cost, and no prescription is required.
Dr. John Kandare, Zounds Audiologist and a native of Cleveland Heights, recently worked with a Cleveland Heights senior who had never worn a hearing aid before. She led an active lifestyle but was struggling to hear in certain environments. "She is doing great now, and is hearing much better in group settings,” said Kandare.
Healthy hearing is an important part of healthy aging. Hearing loss can often lead to withdrawal, isolation and depression, adversely affecting a person's physical and mental health. Maintaining your hearing can help sustain an active, normal lifestyle.
Judith Eugene is a native of Cleveland Heights who provides life-enrichment classes and activities for senior adults and those with physical and mental challenges through www.lovinghandsgroup.com. She can be reached at 216-408-5578 or firstname.lastname@example.org