It’s a story we hear from a lot of people in their 60s today: “I worked as a welder/pipefitter / factory hand back in the 70s and didn’t wear ear protection.” Whatever the specific job may have been, hearing protection wasn’t on most people’s radar back then. There was even a stigma in some work cultures against wearing hearing protection.
Similarly, there has long been a stigma associated with wearing hearing aids to help correct for the hearing loss that may have been promoted in those noisy work environments. This stigma, however, is fast eroding as more and more people realize the importance of wearing hearing aids for not just health & safety, but for the huge benefits, they bring to our quality of life.
On average, people tend to wait about seven years from the time they notice the hearing loss until the time they seek out a set of hearing aids. Unfortunately, a lot happens over the course of seven years. Changes in the brain start to occur even with mild hearing loss that can make it harder to understand speech even when you do start wearing hearing aids. Memory issues that tend to arise with mild hearing loss can cause us to miss out on much of what’s going on around us.
People who get hearing aids often describe the experience as like “lifting a fog.” For the first time in a long time, they can hear again. That’s not to say that hearing aids immediately solve all of our problems— there tends to be an adjustment period, and it can take some getting used to hearing all the sounds around us again. For every bird song, there’s a fridge buzz. But when asked after one year, 95% of people today say they’re satisfied with their hearing aids.
Hearing loss puts a gulf between us and the people who are most important to us. When communication gets difficult, it tends to peel back to only the bare necessities.—“I need to go to the store.” “The trash needs to be taken out.”—Normally, we connect with those we’re close to hundreds of times a day through small, seemingly “unimportant” communications. When hearing loss becomes an issue, we start to have to raise our voices and repeat ourselves over and over. Eventually, the effort can become too much.
Hearing speech in larger groups, or when background noise is present, is one of the first things people have trouble with as hearing loss begins to progress.
Hearing aids allow you to hear each other again. You can communicate easily and freely, talking about whatever catches your mind. That helps deepen your relationship in untold ways! Talking with grandchildren—whose high-pitched, children’s voices are even harder to hear for most people with hearing loss—can become possible again. You don’t need to pretend to hear when you can actually hear!
Hearing Aids Are Better Than Ever
Even those who tried hearing aids a few years ago might be surprised at the level of improvement the technology has achieved since then. Manufacturers are gaining a better understanding of how to implement DSP (digital signal processing) that can drastically improve the sound of the world around us by amplifying more of what we want and less of what we don’t. It’s tricky to get this balance right, but current hearing aids on the market are doing it better than we might have imagined even a decade ago.
It’s not only the things that hearing aids can accomplish with the natural sound around us that makes them better, but many other changes that have come along recently have made them easier to integrate into our lives and routines. Hearing aids today can function much the same as a set of “hearables,” like Apple Airpods® or other augmentative earphones. They integrate with the devices we use throughout our day via Bluetooth, and smartphone apps allow us a high degree of control over how our hearing aids work for us. You can even meet with your audiologist through the app to get a fitment update and tweak your hearing aids’ programming until they’re as comfortable as can be.
If you’re having issues with hearing loss, make an appointment for a hearing test today and find out how contemporary hearing aids can truly improve your quality of life!