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More than 35 million Americans, adults and children, have hearing loss and might need hearing aids. That’s what the Food & Drug Administration reported in 2018.
It’s a common scenario: your husband (or other loved one) can’t hear you unless you stand in front of him and speak slowly and clearly. But he refuses to wear a hearing aid. What can you do? Here’s some background information, and some ideas that might help.
What is a hearing aid?
According to the National Library of Medicine, a hearing aid is a small electronic device that makes some sounds louder and easier to hear. You generally wear it in your ear, or behind it.
How does a hearing aid work?
A hearing aid has a microphone to pick up sounds, according to the National Institutes of Health. The microphone changes the sound waves to electrical signals, or digitizes them. An amplifier sends these electrical or digitized signals to a tiny speaker that sits in or behind your ear.
How do you know if you need a hearing aid?
Here are some questions you can ask your loved one – or yourself – to see if a hearing aid is likely needed. These criteria come from the Food & Drug Administration (FDA).
- Do you turn up the TV or radio so loud that people complain?
- Do you have to strain to hear someone?
- Do people say you’re shouting when you talk to them?
- Do you find that you can’t hear water dripping or a high musical note?
- Can you hear better out of one ear than the other?
- Do you often ask people to repeat what they said?
If any of these symptoms apply, you may want to make an appointment with your doctor, who might refer you to an audiologist. Many people need a hearing aid for each ear, according to the FDA.
How can a hearing aid help?
The world can be a lonely place if you miss out on conversations. On the other hand, some people might complain that a hearing aid amplifies all the sounds – not just voices – so it’s hard to pick out people talking.
One process that might help you convince your loved one to get help for hearing loss is called aural rehabilitation. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), hearing aids may be just one part of managing hearing loss. Aural rehabilitation can include:
- Therapies to treat hearing loss
- Evaluating different hearing aids and other devices for your situation
- Training you how to get the best use from your hearing aids
- Helping you adjust to your hearing loss
Here are some tips about how to help your loved one accept and live with hearing aids. This advice is from a hard-of-hearing person on website called HearingLossHelp.com. The audiologist may be able to help with these.
- Make sure the hearing aids are properly fitted so they’re comfortable to wear.
- Use other assistive listening devices when necessary, such as when you’re far from the person talking, or there’s a lot of noise.
- Be aware that you’ll need to develop skills to adjust to your hearing loss. An aural rehabilitation program may help with some techniques.
- It may help to learn how to speechread (read lips) so you can tell what someone’s saying by watching the mouth.
What are the downsides of hearing aids?
The human brain and ears naturally work together to focus on some sounds and screen out others. A hearing aid might amplify all sounds, and you might hear “wind noise,” according to the Mayo Clinic.
However, there are many different types of hearing aids. See more on this below. The Mayo Clinic recommends that you discuss your hearing needs with your doctor, and ask her to refer you to an audiologist. The audiologist can help you decide what kind of hearing aid will meet your needs.
You may also urge your loved one to give the hearing aids a chance. The Mayo Clinic recommends taking some time to get used to them.
Hearing aids may be costly. Read about Medicare and hearing aids.
Types of hearing aids
There’s a wide range of hearing aids on the market today, reports the Mayo Clinic. Some are very small; some are larger. Some have volume controls. Many have digital technology. There are hearing aids that have noise cancellation to help block out background noise, and even some that synchronize the hearing aids in your two ears so that (for example) you only need to adjust the volume in one ear, and the other hearing aid will adjust automatically. Some have directional microphones that may help you single out the desired sounds and keep background noise quieter.
Once you decide on a type of hearing aid (with the help of an audiologist), ask if there’s a trial period so you can return them if they don’t meet your needs. The Mayo Clinic also recommends asking the provider to put refund details in print (or printable form).
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