As an audiologist, I diagnose and treat hearing problems in a wide range of patients. And as someone who knows how life-changing hearing devices can be, I encourage anyone experiencing hearing loss to get tested and explore treatment as soon as they notice a problem. Unfortunately, this doesn't always happen.
In some cases, people delay treatment because they aren't sure there is a problem. Most hearing loss develops gradually, so an individual may, at first, chalk the issue up to noisy restaurants, or quiet conversations.
But even for those whose suspicions are confirmed via a hearing test, the next steps of treatment are a tough sell. On average, people diagnosed with hearing loss wait seven years to pursue treatment. Why? There are many reasons, but some of the most common ones stem from popular myths about hearing devices.
MYTH #1: Hearing devices are a last resort.
Many people mistakenly assume hearing devices are only for the deaf, or for those with severe hearing impairment. They'll say, "My hearing loss isn't that bad. Aren't hearing devices a little extreme?"
What they might not realize is that, even when hearing loss is mild, hearing devices can significantly improve listening and communication. They can mitigate those little frustrations —like misunderstood names, or arguments over TV volume—that build up over time to affect quality of life.
When people with mild hearing loss try hearing devices for the first time, the difference is often surprising. Think of it like trying on new glasses with an updated prescription; you can see okay with your current pair, but the moment you try on the new pair, everything is suddenly so much clearer—you realize how much of the world has been out of focus. Just like a new set of specs, hearing devices provide a simple change that can profoundly impact your everyday life.
MYTH #2: Hearing devices aren't hip.
The prevailing stereotype about hearing devices is that they're big, bulky, unattractive, and mostly worn by older folks. Perhaps that was true when our grandparents were wearing them, but hearing device technology and design has come a long way since then.
Today's devices are small and discreet—nearly indistinguishable from the Bluetooth headphones and smart devices that are now commonplace in our culture. You need look no further than trendy activity trackers and other wellness-focused wearables to see that society has become much more accepting of high-tech solutions for staying healthy and active.
As I lovingly remind my patients, "If anything makes you seem old, it's the need to constantly ask others to repeat themselves because you can't understand them—not the device in your ear."
MYTH #3: Hearing devices are a hassle.
Another common hesitation concerns the perceived burden of hearing care. "I don't have time for this," they might say. "I work full time, and can't make it to the doctor whenever I need help with my hearing aids."
While comprehensive hearing care does require regular visits with a doctor for periodic device adjustments, modern technology has made this process much more convenient. Many hearing devices are Bluetooth-compatible, meaning you can use an app to tune them in real-time, right in the environments where you encounter issues.
The growing trend of telemedicine—a.k.a., medical appointments via text, phone, or video chat—is also opening many doors. Instead of trekking to the doctor's office for every appointment, you can receive services from your hearing specialist remotely, at your convenience.
MYTH #4: Hearing devices are expensive.
This is probably the number-one barrier for people in need of hearing care—affordability. At the start of a traditional consultation, patients might say, "Hearing devices sound great, they look great, and I really need the help at work and when I am out at restaurants," but once they hear the costs, they're shocked. "Excuse me? They're $6,000? I can't afford that! Doesn't my insurance cover this?"
This reaction is totally valid; traditional hearing care isn't cheap and, unfortunately, many healthcare plans do not cover hearing devices. With services included, out-of-pocket costs can run between $4,000-$9,000.
Luckily, things are changing. The demand for affordable hearing healthcare is higher than ever, and many care providers are taking notice. Emerging technology and novel approaches like telemedicine are making hearing services more efficient, which significantly lowers costs.
Still not sure if hearing devices are for you? My colleagues and I are happy to provide some further guidance. Drop us a line at [email protected] and we'll set up a chat.