In my over 15 years of experience in the industry, I am always amazed about different people’s beliefs and understandings regarding hearing loss and hearing aids. Many people have misconceptions about hearing devices and how prevalent hearing loss really is among the ages. There is a huge stigma about hearing aids in particular as an “instrument for the elderly”. However, these perceptions are slowly changing, due in part I believe to the massive surge in technological devices available at our disposal. A hearing aid could pass for some, as just another device in one’s ears like air pods or insert earphones. I believe that as a hearing care professional it is my duty to dispel some of the most common myths and misconceptions that I have encountered along the way…
“Only old people wear hearing aids”
The truth: Contrary to popular belief, hearing loss is not restricted to the older population. Only 35% of people who have hearing loss are over the age of 64. And more and more young people are in need of assistance because of prolonged exposure to loud music and noise. About 6 million people between the ages of 18 and 44 have hearing loss.
“I only have difficulty hearing certain sounds and I can hear everything else just fine, so I don’t need hearing aids”
The truth: Being unable to hear certain sounds is still a hearing loss! And it can significantly impact your daily life and conversations with people. Today’s digital hearing aids are so advanced that it allows the audiologist to program them for each person’s specific needs and bring sounds back into their hearing range
“Hearing aids are difficult to use.”
The truth: Hearing aids are more advanced than ever before and are now much easier to use. Each hearing aid can be programmed to suit a patients individual needs and settings can be manipulated for different sound environments. Most hearing aids will automatically adjust so you can move from one sound environment to another without manually changing your settings. Some hearing aids have remote controls and special connectivity to other audio devices, including APPs with special features, allowing you to connect wirelessly to a cell phone, land line phone and TV. Hearing technology has improved to the point where hearing devices can be programmed to suit and enhance each individual’s unique lifestyle.
“Hearing aids are too expensive.”
The truth: It’s true that hearing aids can be a significant investment, but it depends on which device you choose. Better technology is being made available in ‘entry’ level devices so that everyone can benefit from good technology. Prices vary among hearing styles, models and providers, so it is recommended that one discusses all the options with their hearing care professional. Not to forget that most medical aids cover a huge portion if not all of the cost towards hearing aids depending on the option the patient is contracted to. Given the significant improvement they make in communication, productivity and overall quality of life, the money spent on hearing devices can be more than worth it.
“Hearing aids make annoying whistling noises.”
The truth: Hearing aids now feature sophisticated technology that virtually eliminates irritating screeching or whistling, known as ‘feedback’. Hearing aids should not ‘whistle’ in the ears, unless they are being touched. There are many reasons why a hearing aid gives ‘feedback’, if it does, the device should be checked by the audiologist.
“Hearing aids are big and ugly and will make me look old!”
The truth: Your hearing loss may be far more noticeable than today’s discreet new hearing aids! The demand for smaller, less noticeable styles and colours has grown significantly over the years resulting in smaller, more discreet looking hearing aids. Many models are designed to be as ‘invisible’ as possible. Manufacturers now make hearing aids in a wide palette of colors to either blend with hair or skin tones. Accepting the help that today’s hearing aids can offer, will keep you as young as you feel!
“Hearing aids make background noise too loud.”
The truth: Amplified background noise used to be a significant complaint amoungst hearing aid users. That’s because old analogue hearing aids amplified all sounds equally, making background noises uncomfortably loud. Today, sophisticated digital technology, directional microphones and noise cancelling features designed to distinguish speech from noise, work much harder to amplify the sounds you want to hear and decrease the volume on unwanted background noise. These features help to improve ones ability to hear speech more clearly in noisy environments and make the listening experience easy and more comfortable.
“Hearing aids are only for people with really bad hearing.”
The truth: Hearing aids help with ALL degrees and ranges of hearing loss. Hearing loss can occur gradually, and so many people don’t notice how significant it has become over time. Hearing loss can also manifest in various degrees of severity from mild to moderate to severe to profound. Evidence has shown that early intervention is more effective. By delaying the use of a hearing aid, the brain may begin to lose its ability to process speech. In addition, even those with mild – moderate hearing losses expend an enormous amount of energy just to concentrate when others are talking. This in turn can lead to unnecessary headaches, difficulties concentrating and fatigue. If you are having difficulty on the phone, regularly asking people to repeat themselves, turning up the TV volume, or misunderstanding conversations around you, it might be time to seek help.
“Hearing aids will affect my tinnitus (ringing in the ears)”
The truth:For those that have a hearing loss and tinnitus, hearing aids can assist in reducing the effects of the tinnitus. Providing stimulation to the auditory system via hearing aids, may help the brain to ‘turn down’ its sensitivity and cease to seek out the stimulation it is lacking due to the hearing loss.
“They’re more trouble than they’re worth.”
The truth: Everyone’s experience is different. Your brother or your friend or your co-worker may not have gotten the results they expected, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a good solution out there for you. Wearing a hearing aid for the first time is an adjustment, but it is well worth the effort – especially with today’s modern technology at our disposal and the positive effect it can have on our overall well being and quality of life.
“Buying hearing aids online is much cheaper and faster”
The truth: It may be faster and cheaper to buy hearing aids online but its NOT BETTER!
A website can show you a list of features, but can it program the device for you or show you how to program, to suit your exact needs? Can it repair your hearing aid if needed? Can it follow up with you and make sure you are adjusting to your hearing aids? Can it explain to you the process of hearing loss and counsel you regarding the use of your device?
If you broke your leg, would you brush off getting an x-ray, put the cast on yourself, and assume that everything is fine after a few weeks? Thought not. Audiologists have undergone extensive training in order to help people get the best solution possible based on their individual needs. We are there to help, not just to sell you a product. This is something that a website cannot offer, no matter how reliable the source.
“My friend doesn’t wear two hearing aids so I don’t need to either”
The Truth: Everyone’s hearing difficulties are different and require individualized care, just like any other medical treatment. Have you ever tried on someone else’s prescription glasses out of curiosity? Did they correct your vision perfectly? What works for your friend may not work for you, especially when it comes to your health. In addition, the brain is designed to use information coming from both ears, so if you have difficulty hearing in both ears, wearing two hearing aids can significantly help with localizing sound, hearing in noisy environments and improve your speech understanding. Only wearing one hearing aid where 2 are required merely causes an asymmetry in your hearing experience and therefore not at all ideal!
This is by far not an exhaustive list of myths but certainly most of the common ones. I hope by reading this blog, I have enlightened some of you out there and even encouraged you to seek help – the best thing you can do for your hearing is to take control of it. It will give you peace of mind. Treating hearing conditions also improves overall quality of life as well as your relationships with other people. Being able to fully reconnect with your friends and family in conversations is worth it! Ask yourself the question: What do I gain by doing nothing about my hearing difficulties versus talking control of them?