Hearing aids are invaluable technological devices that have been around long enough to build up their own mythology. Unfortunately, many of these myths are based on devices from a bygone era, and these assumptions might no longer remain true. Along with the many other technological devices that surround us, hearing aid technology has transformed dramatically in the last decade alone, making them quite unlike the devices that formed mythology in the first place. Let’s take a moment to unpack some of the commonly held assumptions about hearing aids, as well as the alternative facts that can disabuse you and your loved ones of these widely-held notions.
Myth No. 1: Hearing aids are for old people.
Although it is true that age is a leading factor causing hearing loss, it is by no means the only cause. People require assistance for many other reasons, ranging from childhood hearing loss through noise-induced hearing loss that can happen throughout the lifespan. In fact, younger people are showing higher rates of hearing loss than ever. As noise-making machines increasingly fill our lives and media is available in a constant stream to our ears through headphones and earbuds, hearing aids have become necessary for younger and younger people.
Myth No. 2: I’m doing fine without hearing aids.
It is true that many people jump through mental and cognitive hoops to get by without hearing aids, that process of puzzling out meaning without assistance takes its toll. Although you might feel like you are putting together meaning in a reasonably accurate way through your techniques, untreated hearing loss is correlated with a wide range of other negative health outcomes, including cognitive decline and even dementia. Some people with untreated hearing loss tend to either make a guess at what others are saying, leading to confusion in the communication process, or simply ignoring the things they don’t hear. This mis- and under-information process seems to have cross-over effects in other aspects of the brain, including complex thought and cognition.
Myth No. 3: Hearing aids are frustrating to wear.
Some of the older models of hearing aids were bulky, unsightly, and lacking functionality to make them easy to use. Whether that meant whistling feedback in some environments or batteries that were difficult to change, these older models had room for improvement. The present-day reality is that those improvements have been made! Today’s hearing aids come in a wide range of sizes, styles, and shapes, and many of them are either so small that they fit discreetly inside the ear or so fashionable that they look like high-tech cyborg technologies. Many of the latest hearing aids have rechargeable batteries that require no replacement whatsoever, particularly suited to those with manual dexterity challenges or arthritis. Problems of feedback have largely been avoided through digital sound processing, and many aids can be customized to the sonic environments you most often visit.
Myth No. 4: Hearing aids are more trouble than they’re worth.
Some of the older hearing aids simply raised the volume on the entire sonic profile of an environment. Along with raising the volume of a voice in a conversation, they also raised the sound of background noise and competing voices in the room. The latest hearing aids have overcome this problem through voice-recognition and noise-reduction technologies. These two features work hand-in-hand to make it possible to isolate a single voice in a conversation without raising competing sound, as well. When you add other features such as Bluetooth sync and streaming capability, these devices can almost serve as a set of wireless headphones, sending the audio from your smartphone directly to your ears while also enhancing the volume of acoustic sound at the same time. Truly the technological advancements in hearing aid technology are such that they barely resemble the aids of days gone by.
If you or someone you love is living by a mythology of outmoded hearing aids, the time is now to reconsider what you know and assume about them. With better information about the possibilities of hearing assistance, you can make an informed decision about when and how assistance can come into your life. Don’t delay scheduling a hearing test to embark on the path toward treatment!