Need hearing aids? Don’t be embarrassed
According to the Better Hearing Institute, nearly two-thirds of people with a hearing loss are younger than 65.
Say that again? Isn’t hearing loss usually something that happens as people age?
Although it is true that one in three people in their 60s have some hearing loss, and two in three over age 75, it’s not exclusively a condition of seniors.
The point of saying this is that the stigma about wearing hearing aids results mostly, I think, from its being considered a sign of old age.
And maybe that’s why only one in five people who could benefit from hearing aids wears them, according to better-hearing associations.
What if only one in five people who need glasses wore them? We’d have a lot more traffic accidents, for one thing.
But glasses are fashionable, sometimes even worn by people who don’t need them. Yes, some people prefer contact lenses or Lasix surgery, but industry sources report there are three to five times as many eyeglass wearers as contact lens wearers.
The advertising for hearing aids usually mentions their near invisibility right upfront. Here are headlines on three ads I found online in a quick search: “100% invisible,” “My hearing aid doesn’t show,” “Can’t be seen, can be heard.”
Now that I’ve preached against being embarrassed about wearing hearing aids, I’ll confess: I waited four months after getting my first hearing aids to have my hair cut so that my hair would be long enough for the hairstyle to cover the hearing aids.
Also despite what I’ve been saying, my hearing loss is age related. My hearing was normal when tested 10 years ago. The decline since then has been in the high frequencies, typical of age-related loss.
At least I didn’t go against the audiologist’s recommendation and ask for invisible, completely-in-canal hearing aids. He said they give a plugged-up feeling, and I’d do better with a behind-the-ear device.
From my experience, I can counter another blot against hearing aids — about adjusting to them. I had no problems. People do better when they get hearing aids younger, the audiologist said. My dad waited until age 94 and two years later still complains about unwelcome noises, like wind whistling. I haven’t noticed anything like that and wonder about his communication with his audiologist.
Hearing aids are easy to care for. All I have to do is brush them to remove ear wax and change the batteries weekly.
All in all, I can report a positive experience and encourage anyone who suspects a hearing loss to have your ears tested.
There are forecasts that younger generations aren’t going to be as self-conscious as we Boomers about wearing hearing aids. For one thing, many of them already are walking around wearing earbuds. My 29-year-old nephew bought nonslip attachments for his eyeglass stems that look a lot like and are worn like my hearing aids. He doesn’t worry that people will mistake them for hearing aids.
Maybe in time hearing aids will become a fashion accessory, like glasses. If you Google fashionable hearing aids, you’ll see some of what’s on the market but not on many ears yet.
My self-consciousness might be lessening. After all, while wanting my hair to cover the hearing aids, I’m announcing to everyone who reads this that I wear them.
I retired in August 2015 from Northwestern University after 25 years as an editor in University Relations. I live in the South Loop and am a volunteer Chicago Greeter. Getting the most out of retired life in the big city will be a recurrent theme of this blog, but I consider any topic fair game because the perspective will be that of a retiree.
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