I've been working in this field for a long time and I can’t get over it. Why wait? Hearing loss leads to number of difficulties, including isolation, frustration, professional problems, exhaustion, friction in relationships, depression and cognitive changes. It is not trivial.
In addition, research has shown for a long time that delaying treatment for hearing loss only aggravates the situation. In effect, the ear may lose its ability to understand words and auditory readaptation becomes more and more difficult.
In this blog, I will try to explain what hearing loss is and how it can be successfully treated with hearing aids and other technical assistance. I will also keep you up to date about new developments in the world of hearing.
First, I would like to take the time to list the most common factors that can explain why people take so much time before addressing their hearing problem.
The person simply does not know that he or she has a problem
Due to the gradual nature and slow progression of hearing impairment, some people don’t realize that they have a problem. They adapt to it in one way or another. “Mom, I'd like for you to get your hearing checked. I think you’ve been having trouble hearing lately.” When the problem is brought to the person’s attention with care and tact, there is a good chance he or she will be receptive to the request and will voluntarily consult a hearing professional.
Sometimes, people realize - up to a point - that they have a hearing problem, but they won't admit it. They become emotional or aggressive when someone brings it up, and they respond by saying something like, “I hear fine. You just mumble.” Or, they’ll say about TV, “The sound is bad. People don't know how to talk anymore. They play the music too loud.” You can imagine that these types of people are more difficult to bring to our offices. You may have to do a group intervention and identify who among you is in the best position to convince the person to get his or her hearing checked. Sometimes this may be the person's spouse, but it can also be someone else, such as a grandchild, a close friend, a nurse or a priest. Every case is different.
This is another type of denial that we often see: the person may be well aware that he or she has a hearing problem but does not realize that it is making life difficult for others. “I don't hear well but it's no big deal. I'm used to it and my wife just speaks louder, so it's fine.” In these cases, you must let the person know gently. Explain to him or her that hearing loss is a problem, that it should be addressed as soon as possible and that it does inconvenience others. “It would make it so much easier for everyone, Dad, if we didn't have to constantly repeat ourselves when we're talking to you.”
They're taking care of other problems
A person who says they're taking care of other things that are more important does not realize how much hearing loss can complicate matters. For example, someone who's being treated for a serious illness will have trouble following the treatment if he or she does not hear the recommendations given by the doctor or pharmacist. He or she may also miss appointments or go at the wrong times.
While it is perfectly understandable that we must face urgent situations right away, you must not minimize the negative impact that untreated hearing loss can have on many aspects of daily life. Not to mention, other more urgent matters may become a simple pretext for some people so that they don't have to address their hearing problem.
Lack of motivation
It's difficult to help someone who doesn't want to be able to hear better.
This is a situation that we often see with people who live alone or who are solitary individuals who have been suffering from an untreated hearing impairment for many years. Without knowing it, they have withdrawn from others and no longer feel the need to hear better.
The best approach is to gently explain that the situation is difficult for the people around them and that it would be much simpler if the person would agree to see someone about his or her hearing problem.
A comment made by a grandson or granddaughter can make all the difference: “Grandma, I want to be able to talk to you and I want you to hear me.”
These types of people need support in order to readapt to the world of sound that surrounds them. You must be patient.
Some people take a long time before contacting us because they've heard negative comments from people who had a bad experience with hearing aids or with other professionals.
In all honesty - just ask any audioprothesist - unsuccessful cases are much more uncommon than you would imagine. If the person is willing, it is extremely rare that we won’t be able to sufficiently correct the problem.
I'll talk more about this specific point in another post where I explain the factors that make people predisposed to failure when adapting to hearing aids.
In sum, apprehension is unfounded and just because Aunt Marie had trouble adapting to her hearing device doesn't mean that Uncle Marcel will, too.
Cost can sometimes be a roadblock to procuring hearing aids for some people. However, the Régie de l’Assurance Maladie du Québec provides hearing aids to all individuals who meet their criteria, at no cost. Other organizations also provide hearing devices, such as the Commission de la Santé et Sécurité au Travail (CSST), the NIHB and Veterans Affairs Canada.
In addition, most audioprothesists will give you the option of paying your bill in several instalments.
On the right track
To conclude this post, I must tell you that, given that every treatment requires a bit of effort on the patient's part, the use of hearing devices still has its critics. Despite all of this, as an audioprothesist, I have seen continuous improvements being made in hearing device techniques as well as major developments in the digital technologies used to design modern hearing devices. For us hearing health professionals, and especially for our patients, this makes for hearing devices that live up to our standards.
François Sasseville, audioprosthetist