Why won’t my parents get hearing aids?

While visiting my parents recently, I overheard a conversation between them that went something like this.

Mom, in the dining room: “Did you take out the trash?”

Dad, in the living room: “I have plenty of cash. What do you need money for?”

“What? I don’t want any money.” “Why did you ask for it?” “What did you say? You’re mumbling again.”

I felt as if I was in the middle of that Abbott and Costello routine. The only difference is that after a while, the daily misunderstandings and frustrations of having to repeat yourself become a lot less funny.

When I suggested to my parents that they might want to get their hearing tested, their first reaction (after exasperated sighs) was that they didn’t want to be bothered. Turns out, they’ve got a lot of company. The average person has been having trouble hearing for 7 to 10 years before they do anything about it.

Why so much resistance to getting hearing impairment diagnosed and treated? First, denial. Many older adults just don’t think they have a problem.

“The No. 1 thing I get from patients is ‘I hear what I want to hear,’ ” said Dr. Linda S. Remensnyder, an audiologist in Libertyville, Ill. “What they don’t understand is that in order to be fully engaged in life, you have to be fully engaged everywhere.”

The person with a hearing problem is often the last to notice it, because the change comes on gradually over years and starts subtly. Adults with hearing loss typically say, “I can hear just fine if people would just stop mumbling.”

They’re half right. It isn’t that they can’t hear — they can. The problem is that they can’t understand. The first clue to a hearing impairment is mixing up consonants. Age-related hearing loss often occurs in the high-frequency ranges that, in English, tend to carry the consonants.

And many older adults think it’s normal to lose some hearing ability. If a majority of older people have hearing loss – and 55 percent of those over age 70 do — then it can’t be that harmful, right?

Wrong. Because the ear plays a role in balance, hearing loss can lead to falls. “Even mild hearing loss can triple the risk of falling,” said Dr. Lin, citing his own research as well as a study of Finnish twins.

Even among the enlightened, hearing aids still carry a stigma. “Men think, ‘It’s a sign of weakness,’ and women think, ‘It’s showing my age,’ ” said Dr. Hagberg. Anyone over 60 remembers when the words “deaf and dumb” were always uttered together – and “dumb” was not used to mean “mute.”

Vanity, too, is still a deterrent. But that may be receding now that new hearing aids are smaller and less visible than ever. Besides, it’s increasingly commonplace to see young and old alike walking around with devices plugged into their ears. (A good thing, too, because the bigger, more noticeable devices tend to produce better sound.)

The majority of those who finally get hearing aids — and do the necessary follow-up visits with an audiologist — experience positive results. If you have any questions about hearing loss and hearing aids contact Hidden Hearing.

Source Susan Seligor: Nytimes: Read More >

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