By Alena Hall
It’s common to experience signs and symptoms of hearing loss as you age. In fact, age is the strongest predictor of hearing loss among adults between the ages of 20 and 69, with the greatest amount of hearing loss occurring in those 60 to 69 years old, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. However, it can be tough to determine when changes in your hearing health warrant a full evaluation from an audiologist—and potentially hearing aids. Not to mention, among adults ages 70 and older with hearing loss who could benefit from hearing aids, fewer than 30% have ever used the devices.
People forgo hearing aids for myriad reasons, including (but not limited to) their cost and perceptions of social stigma. However, well-fitted hearing aids can not only improve a person’s hearing significantly, but may also reduce their risk of dementia from hearing loss.
Here’s how to decide it’s time to buy hearing aids.
Common Signs of Hearing Loss
There are many types of hearing loss, with each presenting unique signs and symptoms. However, according to the National Institute on Aging, the most common signs of hearing loss in older adults include:
- Trouble hearing over the telephone
- Finding it hard to follow conversations when at least two people are talking
- Often asking people to repeat what they said
- Needing to turn up the television volume so loud that others complain
- Having a problem hearing because of background noise
- Thinking that others seem to mumble
If you experience any of these occurrences to a noticeable degree, it’s worth visiting an audiologist for a hearing exam. Your hearing health professional can help determine whether (and to what degree) you’re experiencing hearing loss and the most effective tools and treatments to help.
Why Some People Avoid Hearing Aids
For many adults who could benefit from hearing aids, the perception of social stigma often stands in their way of experiencing improved hearing. Experts shared with Forbes Health that older adults often worry others will see them wearing hearing aids and label them as “old.” For others, it’s a matter of self-judgment. Many perceive hearing aids as a visible sign of aging, a process they may have difficulty accepting.
Meanwhile, others struggle with the cost of hearing aids and paired services. As Forbes Health reports, the average cost of one hearing aid is $2,000, and expenses tend to increase when you factor in a hearing examination with an audiologist and follow-up appointments to service the hearing aids. Starting prices for a pair of hearing aids in 2022 ranged from about $1,400 to over $5,000.
The hearing aid market can also be daunting due to the wide variety of devices available, the levels of technology you can choose from and the various professionals and retailers from which you can purchase them. Not to mention, most health insurance policies, including Medicare, don’t cover the cost of hearing aids.
When Benefits of Hearing Aids Outweigh Their Drawbacks
Despite the challenges associated with purchasing hearing aids, these devices are often well worth the investment.
If your hearing loss affects your daily interactions so much that you feel the urge to withdraw from social activities—or if you frequently feel tired or frustrated by your need to ask loved ones to repeat themselves—it’s time to consider hearing aids. Increased feelings of loneliness, isolation and depression are all too common among older adults with untreated hearing loss. Thankfully, the right professional intervention can alleviate some of these serious concerns.
The first step in considering hearing aids should be a hearing health exam with your audiologist or one recommended to you by your primary care provider. After receiving a detailed hearing loss diagnosis, ask whether the audiologist offers a hearing aid trial period so you can test a device without a significant financial investment. Take your time learning about the various devices available to you and how they differ in terms of performance, size, comfort, price, maintenance and more. Lastly, gather and ensure you understand warranty details before making your selection.
With the right hearing aids, you can improve both your cognitive health and overall quality of life and dramatically enhance the way you experience the world and those around you. You simply have to decide when you’re ready to take that first step.