Does this story sound familiar to you?
“Hey dad, can you hear me? I’m trying to tell you something important.“
“What is it?” He shouts back, cupping his hand around his ear.
“I think you should get a hearing aid.“
“Nonsense! I don’t need one of those things. I’m just a little hard of hearing, that’s all.“
His daughter knows he’s not fooling anyone, especially her. She’s been taking care of him for a long time and she can see how much harder it’s getting for him to hear. But even though she makes a good case, her dad still refuses to get a hearing aid.
She sees him having problems at family gatherings. Her dad can’t hear her, so she has to yell. Or he pretends he can’t hear her and pretends everything is fine. It’s frustrating for both of them. It would be for any family member!
But she knows that the use of hearing aids can be a good thing and help to improve the quality of life for her father and the whole family so she keeps trying to convince him.
Impact Of Hearing Loss On Seniors
The ability to hear is essential for social interactions. If your parent is having difficulty hearing even a single conversation, it can lead to feelings of social isolation and loneliness.
You may notice that your parent is withdrawing from conversations and social groups, or that they seem frustrated or angry.
Hearing loss can cause a great deal of communication breakdown within families.
Did you know that recent studies are indicating a link between hearing loss and cognitive decline?
Brain scans show us that hearing loss may contribute to a faster rate of atrophy in the brain,” Lin says. “Hearing loss also contributes to social isolation. You may not want to be with people as much, and when you are you may not engage in conversation as much. These factors may contribute to dementia.hopkinsmedicine.org
This is why it’s so important to make sure that your elderly parent gets the help they need. With the right support, your parent can continue to enjoy social interactions and maintain their quality of life.
Hearing issues is a common problem as we age. By 2050, it’s estimated that one in four Americans will have some degree of hearing problem. But even though it’s common, many people are reluctant to do something about it.
Nearly 86% of Americans over 50 who have hearing loss don’t wear hearing aids, according to a study conducted between 1999 and 2006 and published in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine.nytimes.com
There are a lot of common reasons why your aging parents may resist getting hearing aids. For some, there’s the cost. Hearing aids can be expensive, and not all insurance plans cover them. (Old age is expensive!)
Others worry that hearing aids will make them look old or disabled. And for some people, there’s just as much anxiety about admitting they have a problem as there is about the actual loss of hearing.
Traditional hearing aids range in price from around $1,000 to over $14,000 per pair, and most insurance plans offer only partial coverage. Medicare doesn’t cover hearing aids at all. In fact, the original 1965 Medicare Act (PDF) specifically excluded coverage of hearing aids—a quirk of the law that hasn’t changed. Making matters worse, hearing aids have an average lifespan of just five to six years, which means that a person diagnosed with hearing loss in their mid-50s can expect to purchase multiple pairs over their lifetime.nytimes.com
I do want you to know that there are a number of ways to finance hearing aids, including insurance coverage, government assistance, and payment plans. Many manufacturers also offer discounts for seniors.
Don’t let the cost of hearing aids be a barrier to better hearing! There are options available to help make them more affordable.
Why Do Old People Refuse Hearing Aids?
There are many reasons why your parent may resist getting a hearing aid. They may be worried about the additional cost, the appearance of the device, or the stigma associated with hearing loss.
Additionally, they may not think that their hearing loss is bad enough to warrant a hearing aid. However, it’s important to remember that hearing aids can greatly improve quality of life for those with hearing loss.
“People resist hearing aids for many reasons, including the fact that they think it makes them old,” says Michelle Matyko, Au.D., an audiologist and co-owner of Roosevelt Field Hearing Corporation in Garden City, New York. “They think people will treat them differently, and it’s hard for some individuals to accept the aging process.”forbes.com
What Percentage Of Adults Over The Age Of 50 Have Hearing Loss?
Approximately one-third of adults over the age of 50 have some form of hearing loss. This number increases to one-half of adults over the age of 65.
Hearing loss is the third most common chronic condition after arthritis and heart disease.
There are many causes of hearing loss, but when older people gradually lose their hearing because of age, it is referred to as age-related hearing loss or presbycusis. This is quite common: about one-third of 65-year-olds and half of 75-year-olds have some degree of hearing loss. Presbycusis usually starts with a decreased ability to hear high-pitched sounds.jamanetwork.com
What Causes Presbycusis?
There are many possible causes of presbycusis, including:
- Aging: The natural aging process is the most common cause of presbycusis. As we age, our ear structures and functions change, which can lead to hearing loss.
- Exposure to loud noise: Prolonged exposure to loud noise can damage the tiny hairs in the inner ear that are essential for hearing. This type of damage is usually permanent.
- Medical conditions: Certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and thyroid problems, can increase the risk of developing presbycusis.
- Medications: Some medications, such as certain antibiotics and cancer treatments, can cause hearing loss as a side effect.
- Genetics: Hearing loss can be passed down through families (inherited).
If you think you might have presbycusis, it’s important to see a doctor or audiologist (a hearing specialist) for a diagnosis. They will ask about your medical history and do a physical exam.
They may also do tests to assess your hearing, such as a hearing test (audiogram) or an impedance audiometry test.
Why Do So Many People Have Hearing Loss?
There are a number of reasons why people lose their hearing as they age. One of the primary causes is damage to the tiny hair cells in the inner ear.
These hair cells are responsible for converting sound waves into electrical signals that are sent to the brain. Once these hair cells are damaged, they cannot be repaired or replaced.
Other causes of hearing loss include:
- Exposure to loud noise: This can occur due to work environment (such as construction sites or factories), leisure activities (such as listening to music through headphones) or exposure to sudden, loud noises (such as explosions).
- Tinnitus: This is the perception of sound when no external source is present. While it is often described as a ringing noise, tinnitus can also sound like a clicking, hiss or roaring. It can vary in pitch from a low roar to a high squeal and you may hear it in one or both ears. In some cases, the sound can be so loud that it interferes with your ability to concentrate or hear normal conversation.
- Infections: Viruses or bacteria can cause infections in the middle ear, which can lead to hearing loss .
- Injury: A blow to the head can damage the delicate structures in the inner ear and cause hearing loss.
- Tumors: Noncancerous tumors (such as acoustic neuromas) or cancerous tumors (such as squamous cell carcinomas) can grow on the auditory nerve or within the ear canal and cause hearing loss.
- Inherited Conditions: Some forms of hearing loss are passed down from generation to generation .
- Diseases: Several diseases can cause hearing loss, including diabetes and meningitis.
If you or your senior loved one has any risk factors for hearing loss, it’s important to get regular hearing screenings. Early detection and treatment of hearing loss is essential for preventing further damage and for maintaining communication skills.
How Do I Convince My Parents To Get A Hearing Aid?
I friend of mine recently told me that her parent refuses to get a hearing aid even though she has explained the basic problems they’re having.
Their hearing loss is making it difficult for them to follow conversations, watch television, and even hear the doorbell. My friend told me that she is really worried about their safety and well being.
If you’re concerned about your parent’s hearing loss, there are a few things you can do to encourage them to get a hearing aid:
- Schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist. This will give your parent the opportunity to discuss their options with a professional and get an idea of what type of hearing aid would be best for them.
- Talk to your parent about how hearing loss is impacting their life. Explain how a hearing aid can help them communicate better and stay connected to loved ones.
- Offer to accompany your parent to appointments and help them with the research process. This will show that you’re supportive of their decision to get a hearing aid and that you’re willing to help them through it.
- Be patient and understanding. It can be difficult for adults to admit they need help with their hearing. Try to be understanding and remind your parent that there’s no shame in getting a hearing aid.
- If your parent still refuses to get a hearing aid, you can try exploring other options, such as assistive listening devices or captioning services. You can also continue to talk to them about the benefits of a hearing aid in the hopes that they’ll change their mind.
Some other tips include…
1. Talk about the benefits
One of the best ways to convince your parent to get a hearing aid is to talk about all the benefits they’ll enjoy.
Hearing aids can vastly improve quality of life, making it easier to communicate with loved ones and participate in activities that were once difficult or impossible.
2. Find a trustworthy provider
If your parent is worried about the cost of hearing aids or the quality of the devices, do some research to find a reputable provider. There are many companies that offer affordable, high-quality hearing aids.
3. Get a second opinion
If your parent is still hesitant, consider getting a second opinion from another audiologist or ENT doctor. This can help put their mind at ease and give them the information they need to make an informed decision.
4. Talk to them about the adjustment period
Hearing aids can take some time to get used to. Let your parent know that it may take a few weeks or even months for them to get used to the devices. Encourage them to be patient and give themselves time to adjust.
5. Be patient and understanding
Parents may be reluctant to get hearing aids for a variety of reasons. It’s important to be patient and understanding as they make their decision. Ultimately, it’s up to them whether or not to get help for their hearing loss.
However, you can provide support and information to help them make the best decision for their health.
6. They may be eligible for over the counter hearing aids
You can try a completely different way by approaching the topic of them using these new OTC hearing aids.
If they have mild hearing loss, or even moderate loss, you may be able to convince them to try to wear hearing aids that are sold over the counter (OTC). This would eliminate the need to see an audiologist and would cost much less.
If your parent is refusing to see someone you can try an online hearing test like this one from Starkey.
It’s not going to be as comprehensive as an actual test from an audiologist but if the hearing loss is mild to moderate this may at least give them (and you) some idea of the severity.
Of course, there are some “signs” that indicate there is some hearing loss going on.
- Speech or other sounds seem muffled.
- You have trouble hearing when you’re in a group, in a noisy area, on the phone, or when you can’t see who is talking.
- You have to ask others to speak more slowly or clearly, to talk louder, or to repeat what they said.
- You turn up the volume higher than other people prefer when watching TV or listening to the radio or music.
I would also add that if you have trouble distinguishing what people are saying because the background noise is interfering – that is a very good sign of some hearing loss.
Digital Hearing Aids vs. Analog Hearing Aids
Digital hearing aids are becoming increasingly popular, as they offer a number of advantages over traditional analog models. For one, digital hearing aids can be programmed to meet the specific needs of each individual user.
This means that they can be fine-tuned to provide the best possible sound quality for the wearer.
Additionally, digital hearing aids often come equipped with features that can make using them more convenient, such as the ability to connect to Bluetooth-enabled devices.
Analog hearing aids, on the other hand, are typically less expensive than their digital counterparts. They also tend to be more durable, as they don’t contain any delicate electronic components.
However, analog hearing aids can’t be programmed to the same degree as digital models, so they may not provide the same level of sound quality.
If you’re considering a hearing aid for yourself or a loved one, it’s important to consult with a hearing healthcare professional to find out which type of device would be best suited for your needs.
Can Primary Care Doctors Prescribe A Hearing Aid?
There’s a lot of debate about whether or not primary care doctors should prescribe hearing aids. Some people argue that it’s not within their scope of practice, and that patients should be referred to an audiologist.
Others argue that primary care doctors are in a unique position to identify patients who could benefit from a hearing aid, and that they should be trained to prescribe them.
Ultimately, the decision of whether or not to prescribe a hearing aid is up to the doctor. Some primary care doctors are comfortable prescribing hearing aids, while others are not.
If your parent refuses to get a hearing aid, you may want to consult with another primary care doctor to see if they would be willing to prescribe one. You can also ask your parent to see an audiologist for a second opinion.
Can I Buy A Hearing Aid Without A Test?
It depends. If it’s been determined that your hearing loss is mild to moderate, then you may be able to do well with an over the counter (OTC) hearing aid.
These do not require a test by an audiologist. Instead, you can perform your own test using the smartphone app that is associated with the OTC hearing aid that you purchase.
What Is The New Hearing Aid Law?
For decades, anyone who experienced difficulty hearing had to see an audiologist for an examination and then purchase their hearing aids, which are very expensive.
But, a new law may soon pass that will help those with hearing problems.
The new law, known as the Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act of 2017, makes it possible for people to get hearing aids without a prescription from a doctor.
This is good news for those who have mild to moderate hearing loss, because it will make hearing aids more affordable and easier to obtain.
In 2017, lawmakers directed FDA to create a new category for OTC hearing aids for use by adults with perceived mild-to-moderate hearing loss. FDA followed up in October 2021 with the publication of a proposed rule about the establishment of an OTC hearing aids category. The proposal set the stage for the sale of hearing aids directly to consumers in stores or online without a medical exam or a fitting by an audiologist, while maintaining the prescription-only status of aids for minors and severe hearing loss.medtechdive.com
The proposal allows for the sale of hearing aids directly to consumers in stores or online without a medical exam or a fitting by an audiologist.
This is very good news for anyone who will be wearing a hearing aid for the first time and also for anyone who has been resistant to purchasing one because of the cost.
But, I want to repeat that these over the counter hearing aids are ONLY intended for anyone with mild to moderate hearing loss! So, the type of hearing loss you have may not benefit from these OTC types.
If you have profound hearing loss, I would recommend that you seek the test and help from an audiologist.
If you have trouble hearing conversations even in quiet settings or miss loud sounds like cars honking when you drive or announcements in public buildings, your hearing loss is more severe than OTC hearing aids are designed to address, notes the National Institutes of Health.healthyhearing.com
UPDATE: On August 16, 2022 – the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) made the decision to finally make these over the counter hearing aids available without a prescription to adults. You can read more about it here.
How Do OTC Hearing Aids Work?
Basically, OTC (Over The Counter) hearing aids are “one size fits most.” So, yes, as I stated above, they are not for everyone but for many older adults just beginning to experience some hearing loss, they may be a great solution.
Keep in mind that most over the counter hearing aids are for those with less than a moderate hearing loss. If you have severe hearing loss, you’ll probably need to see a hearing specialist to get a custom-fitted hearing aid.
Do be aware that to get the most out of these hearing aids, many companies have a smartphone app.
The quality of hearing is the same and you can use them without the app, you just won’t get the same user experience without the phone app.
When I got my Lexie’s, the set up process was super simple:
- Download the Lexie app to your smart phone and set up your free account. If you aren’t using a smartphone app, you can set them up via Customer Support.
- Follow the prompts in the app (you’ll want to have your smartphone close by). There are also instructions in the box with your new hearing aids to help you choose the correct length of tubing for your particular ear size, along with the little “plug” that seals to your ear so you don’t get feedback.
- Once the app has paired with your hearing aids and the volume is adjusted to your needs, you’re good to go!
- To use the hearing aid, simply insert a battery into the device and close the little door. I’m pretty sure this is how they all work, as my dad’s prescription hearing aids worked similarly.
- When you remove them from your ears, just tug gently on the plastic “tab” that fits along the side of your ear. Once you are holding them in your hand, remove the battery and store the device (minus the battery) with the supplied drying disc.
Some things to know about the Lexie hearing aids:
- You can change the volume and hearing programs from within the app or on the hearing aids themselves.
- Lexie gives Rewards, which can be used towards free or reduced price batteries and other equipment. The Rewards section of the app has guided messages to help you get used to your new hearing aids and to learn how to take care of them. This was great for a beginner like me (I’ve never used hearing aids before).
- Be sure to follow the advice for care of the hearing aids so you get the longest life from them.
All in all, I’m very happy with these hearing aids, they have helped me tremendously to hear better and to stop asking others to repeat themselves.
I certainly understand the frustration you may be feeling in trying to get your senior parent to make the leap to getting hearing aids. It can be a tough decision for them for a variety of reasons as I mentioned above.
There are a lot of things that go into hearing. The ear collects sound waves and sends them to the hearing nerve.
This nerve then sends signals to the brain, which interprets them as sound. If any part of this process is damaged, it can cause hearing loss. Hearing aids can help to restore some or all of this lost function .
For many seniors, the decision to get hearing aids is not an easy one. There are a lot of factors that can go into it, including cost, insurance coverage, and lifestyle changes.
But don’t give up! With a little patience and understanding, you may be able to help your parent make the leap to better hearing.