According to Ear, Nose & Throat Journal, 50% of seniors ages 75-84 suffer from presbycusis—the medical term for hearing loss. And for seniors ages 94 and up, that number increases to 95%. But despite the numbers, only about one in five seniors purchase some type of hearing aid. And even fewer actually use them.
So why are so many people choosing to forego these life-changing medical devices?
If you’ve ever tried to convince a stubborn parent or spouse to get fitted for hearing aids, you’ve heard all the excuses:“My hearing isn’t as great as it used to be, but it’s not bad enough for hearing aids.”
“I’m too young for that. They’ll make me look old.”
“My friends say they don’t work, so why bother?”
“They’re too complicated and too much work.”
“I can make do just fine without them.”
Let’s talk about each of these excuses, and how you can help your loved one see past
1. “My hearing isn’t as great as it used to be, but it’s not that bad.”
Hearing loss happens gradually over time, making it easy to ignore the tale-tell signs (or deny them altogether). So, it can come as a surprise for people when their doctor tells them they need hearing aids—even after years of asking those around them to “Speak up!” or repeat themselves.
It’s not uncommon for people to blame their hearing loss on other factors: “You were mumbling.” “The TV was too loud.” Or even, “I wasn’t trying to hear that.” It’s frustrating to hear the same excuses over and over, but even more difficult to watch your loved one struggle and refuse to help themselves.
Approach your loved one with respect to their situation. Let them know you are willing to try new ways to communicate, but that they need to be just as willing as you. Tell them: “You tell me you can’t hear what I’m saying. I am happy to repeat myself, but I want you to try using your hearing aid first.”
2. “I’m not old. Hearing aids make you look old.”
We hear this from people of all ages—even those in their 80s.
Everyone who is lucky enough to live into old age will experience hearing loss. It’s a natural part of aging and a fact of life.
Ask your loved one, “What is more important—looking young, or feeling young?” Remind them that they will feel younger when they don’t have to constantly ask people to speak up or repeat themselves. They will be able to interact more, and take greater pleasure from conversations.
If that doesn’t work, you can always inform them that the majority of people who do wear hearing aids are under 64!
3. “My friend says they don’t work.”
Hearing aids don’t cure hearing loss—they only enhance your current ability to hear. After getting fitted for hearing aids, some seniors expect their hearing to be completely restored, and are disappointed when that turns out not to be the case. But that doesn’t mean the aids aren’t working.
The majority of times that hearing aids malfunction, they haven’t been fitted properly. Don’t let another person’s experience prevent them from trying hearing aids themselves. Go with them to their fitting and help them ask their audiologist about the equipment, how to use it, and how to make adjustments if they feel they’re not working like they should.
4. “They’re too complicated for me to use.”
New technology can have a bit of a learning curve, but seniors will find it even more difficult to adjust if they don’t make their hearing aids a part of their daily routine.
Encourage your loved one to wear their hearing aids every day—not just on special occasions. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association offers helpful tips for daily use here.
5. “I’m fine without them.”
This can be one of—if not the—hardest objection to overcome. We know how hearing loss can affect a person. They participate less in conversations, and eventually, social interactions altogether. This withdrawal from communication can make them feel isolated, even depressed.
As your loved one ages, you want to be able to spend more, quality time with them—not less. You want them to pick up the phone when you call. You want to talk with them face-to-face.
Sometimes, when approaching your loved one about hearing aids, the most effective way to convince them isn’t by showing them how hearing aids will benefit them—but by explaining how much they will benefit the people around them.
Tell them how much it would mean to you and speak from the heart.
This blog contains discussion about health-related subjects, and is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnose or treat any disease or illness. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, please contact your doctor immediately or call 9-1-1.