Hear, Hear! Better Living with Hearing Loss

Hearing loss affects over 30 million Americans—and it’s not just a problem for the elderly. The majority (65 percent) of people with hearing loss are actually younger than age 65. There are more than six million people in the U.S. between the ages of 18 and 44 with hearing loss, and nearly one and a half million are school age, according to the Better Hearing Institute. Because hearing has a profound effect on quality of life, it’s important to know how to recognize hearing loss, and what can be done about it.

Signs of Hearing Loss

Do you:

  • Have trouble hearing over the telephone?
  • Find it hard to follow conversations when two or more people are talking?
  • Often ask people to repeat what they are saying?
  • Need to turn up the TV volume so loud that others complain?
  • Have a problem hearing because of background noise?
  • Think that others seem to mumble?
  • Can’t understand when women and children speak to you?

Then it’s time to see your doctor and ask about referrals to an otolaryngologist (a specialist who can investigate the cause of hearing loss) or an audiologist (a specialist who will measure hearing loss).

Many people think that their physician will tell them during their physicals if they have a hearing problem. But in reality, only about 14 percent of physicians routinely screen for hearing loss. That’s why it’s important to talk with your healthcare provider and get screened if you exhibit hearing loss signs.

Better Living with Hearing Loss

It’s an unpleasant reality—aging can take a toll on hearing. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), 1 in 3 people older than 60—and half of those older than 85—have hearing loss.

Hearing problems can make it difficult to respond to warnings, understand and follow doctor’s advice, and even to hear doorbells and alarms. The good news is that there are many assistive technologies that can make living with hearing loss easier.

  • Hearing aids of many styles and capabilities, some of which are hardly visible and others which can even sync up with other electronic devices.
  • Amplified telephones or telephone caption services help facilitate outside communication.
  • Personal infrared and FM systems make it easier to hear the television, movies, meetings, and religious services.
  • Computerized speech recognition software lets a computer change a spoken message into a readable text document.
  • Closed-captioned TV (CCTV) shows spoken dialogue and sounds in a text display. All TVs now sold with screens of at least 13 inches must have built-in captioning.

You can learn more about hearing loss at The Better Hearing Institute  and the Hearing Loss Association of America.

All the Better to Hear You With

There are a surprising number of people who could benefit from hearing aids that don’t wear them. But those that do wear them report a significant improvement in quality of life.

A survey by the Better Hearing Institute found that, of the hearing aid wearers that responded:

  • 71 percent reported more effective communications.
  • 56 percent had a better social life.
  • 55 percent reported better relationships at home.
  • 56 percent had better relationships in the workplace.
  • 48 percent had improved emotional health.

Today’s hearing aids are not the big, clunky ones you may remember. There are sizes and styles to fit every lifestyle, and many are winning awards for their design.

  • Completely-in-the-Canal (CIC) hearing aids fit into the ear canal and are virtually invisible.
  • Behind-the-Ear (BTE) hearing aids are much sleeker, smaller and more discreet than their predecessors.
  • Open-Fit BTEs are nearly invisible behind the ear and use a thin plastic tube or a thin wire to amplify sound into the ear canal.

Hearing Aid FAQ

  • Are hearing aid batteries interchangeable among manufacturers? Battery dimensions are standardized across all brands. All sizes are the same— just look for the color standard to find your battery size.
  • Should I open the door on my hearing aid when it’s not in use? Yes. It is a good idea to open the battery door on your hearing aid when you are not using it. This reduces battery drain and may allow air in to remove any moisture buildup.
  • How should I store my batteries for best hearing aid battery life? To get maximum hearing aid battery life, keep batteries at room temperature. Heat can shorten hearing aid battery life and a damp location like the refrigerator is not recommended. Also, never carry loose batteries in your pocket or purse. Contact with metal items like keys or coins can short-circuit the battery.

Learn more about getting the most out of hearing aids and hearing aid batteries at Energizer.

Ask Before You Buy

Before buying hearing aids, the hearing experts at NIDCD say you should ask a few questions:

  • What features would be most useful to me?
  • Does the audiologist perform real ear measures to verify the performance of the hearing aids?
  • What is the total cost of the hearing aids? Do the benefits of newer technologies outweigh the higher costs?
  • Is there a trial period to test the hearing aids? (Most manufacturers allow a 30- to 60-day trial period during which aids can be returned for a refund.) What fees are nonrefundable if the aids are returned after the trial period?
  • How long is the warranty? Can it be extended? Does the warranty cover future maintenance and repairs?
  • Can the audiologist make adjustments and provide servicing and minor repairs? Will loaner aids be provided when repairs are needed?
  • What instruction does the audiologist provide?

Not all insurance will cover hearing aids, but AARP members can save 20 percent on hearing aids and hearing care through the AARP Hearing Care Program provided by HearUSA.