Common misconceptions about hearing aids and the actual truth.
1.) Hearing aids will make my hearing “normal” again like glasses make vision 20/20.
Vision issues of near- or far-sightedness are caused by an incorrectly formed lens within the eye. This can be corrected by placing an additional lens in front of the eye (i.e. glasses) so that between the two lenses the eye sees clearly. Vision can usually be corrected to 20/20 or better. Glasses are a mechanical solution to a mechanical problem.
Hearing, unlike vision, is not an issue of a mechanical problem and solution. Hearing aids are a mechanical solution to a neurological problem. The most common hearing difficulties arise from neurological or biological issues such as the death or damage of the delicate structures of the inner ear or of the nerves that send the signal to the brain. Hearing problems cannot be “corrected” to normal, only significantly reduced in severity. Although not perfect, hearing aids are generally considered the best solution available.
2.) With hearing aids I won’t have to speech-read (lip-read) anymore and noisy situations won’t be a problem for me anymore.
The brain processes speech best when it can use both auditory and visual cues. This is true for all people, whether they have hearing loss or not. Hearing cannot be “corrected” to normal like vision can (see above). The effects of hearing loss can only be significantly reduced. The use of both auditory and visual stimuli allows your brain the highest chance of fully understanding the conversation. Everyone, even those with normal hearing, uses some form of visual cues and speech reading when conversing, especially in noisy situations. Body language and facial expression are two highly important visual cues that allow us to accurately converse with the world around us. Without them the meaning of the words we say is lost.
Additionally, locations with a lot of background noise are highly difficult listening situations even for people with superb hearing. Hearing aids today have wonderful features to help reduce the effects of background noise, but noisy places will still be more difficult listening situations than quiet places. If a person with normal hearing has difficulty in noisy situations, so will a person with hearing aids.
3.) Hearing aids are very visible and obvious to others
It is true that hearing aids used to be quite obvious and very visible. They used to be the size of your finger and require a separate battery pack that had to be worn in a large pocket attached to a harness or belt with wires running in between. They used to come only in one color that never matched anyone’s skin or hair color. They used to be easily visible from across the room. Hearing aids have come a very long way since then.
Today computer technology has allowed hearing aids to shrink in size. Most hearing aids are now smaller than a quarter and many are even smaller than a dime. They come in a large variety of colors to match hair color or skin color. They use batteries the size of a pencil eraser or smaller. They can even be fully automatic so that from morning to night they never have to be touched. Some hearing aids are so small they completely disappear in the ear canal. Nowadays most hearing aids really aren’t visible even to people who are standing next to you.
4.) Hearing aids are not socially acceptable and my social life will suffer for wearing them; Hearing aids are only for Senior Citizens
Hearing aid users are mature adults. They are also young adults, children, and even babies. Along with a law that says all babies will have their hearing tested at birth came a law that babies and children with hearing loss will be fit with hearing aids to help them hear. These babies and children then grow up into young adults with hearing aids. Young people are exposed to loud noises or may have an accident that hurts their hearing, so they get hearing aids too.
Hearing aids now come not only in colors that match hair and skin color, but also in bright pink and sky blue and sunshine yellow, just to name a few. There are even hearing aids that are zebra stripped! Just as there is a wide variety of hearing aid users, there is a wide variety of hearing aid colors and sizes. Hearing aids are so small now and so many people are using hearing aids to help them communicate and learn better that you may meet several hearing aid users every day and never know it.
What impacts a social life most isn’t how a person looks but how the person acts. If “Timmy” cannot hear or understand the conversation, he may get frustrated or he may zone out. The people he is talking with may think he is ignoring them or that he is being rude or unpleasant. So they don’t want to hang out with him anymore. Or Timmy may decide that trying to talk with the other people is too difficult or too much work, so he stops hanging out with them. Either way, Timmy’s social life suffers. If Timmy can use hearing aids to hear the other people speak, he can easily join in and everyone can enjoy themself. Because everyone enjoys themself they may get together often and Timmy’s social life will be rich and full.
5.) Hearing aids are all the same, if I didn’t like one, I won’t like any others
Just like there are many different shoe companies or many different cereal companies, there are many hearing aid companies. Each hearing aid company sounds a little different because each uses a little bit different process to make sound and speech easier to hear. The small differences in each company’s process may make a big change in how well a hearing aid works for you.
You would not think “I did not like Raisin Bran therefore I do not like Lucky Charms”. Instead you would say “Raisin Bran and Lucky Charms are different cereals, I may like one, but not the other”. If you were fit with a hearing aid, or you have tried a hearing aid before and it wasn’t quite right for you, don’t give up. Try a different company’s hearing aid. It may be just right for you.
A fun way to strengthen your speech understanding ability (whether you have hearing aids or not)-
Use books on tape -Alternate listening only with reading along as you listen. When you listen only, your brain must rely solely on auditory stimuli for all of its understanding. When you read along, your brain combines both auditory and visual stimuli. Either way your brain is being kept active and you are strengthening your ability to understand speech.
An active brain is a healthy brain!