How the Stigma of Hearing Aids is Hurting People

Having trouble hearing? You’re not alone. In fact, 48 million Americans are in the same situation, and the numbers are only growing as Baby Boomers age and noise continues to negatively impact younger generations.

And like you, many of them feel squeamish about wearing a hearing aid. You’re afraid it will make you feel old and frail. You’re afraid people will treat you differently. Audiologists estimate that only 20 percent of Americans who need hearing aids actually wear them.

The truth is, hearing aids are just eyeglasses for your ears. Former Charleston mayor Joe Riley wears a hearing aid. So do rock ‘n roll icons Mick Jagger and Sting. If comedian Whoopi Goldberg, former president Bill Clinton and actor Jodie Foster can wear hearing aids, you can too.

Hearing loss can lead to a host of other problems, social and health-related,” says Dr. Hollie Bahen, audiologist at Hearing Care of Summerville. “It is important to take care of your hearing and manage and treat your hearing loss, regardless of the perception.” Here are a few reasons why

1. Hearing loss leads to other physical issues

Hearing loss can be a harbinger of heart disease if it is caused by reduced blood flow to the auditory center of the brain. Damage to the ear can also affect our balance, leading to falls and reduced ability to engage in essential physical activities. A Johns Hopkins study found that the number of falls tripled even with mild hearing loss.

2. Hearing loss isolates us socially

Imagine being left out of the conversation at a party or Thanksgiving dinner because you can’t understand what is being said. Imagine your friends stop calling you on the phone because hearing loss makes conversations awkward and difficult. Studies show that hearing loss leads to social withdrawal, isolation, irritability and social rejection.

3. Hearing loss isolation leads to psychological issues

Reduced communication, the loss of friends and isolation from family due to hearing loss can lead to loneliness, depression and even dementia. Studies show that a lack of robust social activity can speed the onset of impairments in memory and cognition.

4. Not wearing your hearing aid makes your hearing worse

Because most of hearing is done with the brain, not the ears, the more exposure the brain has to sounds at normal volume, the better it is able to retain its ability to hear and understand. Failing to wear a hearing aid when needed deprives the brain of the practice it needs. Eventually, the brain will re-wire itself to do other things.

5. Hearing aids are better, subtler and longer lasting

New advances in hearing aid design have improved their ability to distinguish voices from noise and hide in or behind your ear. They have become more discrete, but at the same time, more powerful, flexible and can evolve with your hearing due to the utilization of digital technology.

6. It’s particularly important for younger people

Often, younger people suffering from hearing loss are the most stigmatized by the need for hearing aids. For them, a hearing disability can have financial consequences. Research by the Better Hearing Institute found that untreated hearing loss can reduce annual earnings by as much as $30,000, and can be reversed 90 percent of the time by wearing a hearing aid.

The stigma around hearing aids is waning while the devices are improving. With all that is at stake, everyone who needs one should consider it. Contact Hearing Care of Summerville at 843-871-9669 to determine whether you would benefit from a hearing aid.