What’s that you say?
Getting older often means losing our senses – literally.
Both our vision and hearing begin to fail us impacting the quality of life of many of our senior loved ones.
Getting glasses to improve our vision, while not inexpensive, is pretty easy for many of us to buy. There are numerous vision centers and eye doctors of our choosing so that we can compare and get the most affordable options. Getting a pair of glasses while you wait or while you shop for groceries has become commonplace for older adults.
Being able to access corrective lenses so that, despite aging’s loss of vision, seniors can still perform their daily activities with optimal sight helps seniors maintain a routine life.
Unfortunately, finding a solution to hearing loss associated with aging is not as easy.
While neither are covered services under most insurance plans including Medicare, hearing aids are often financially out of the reach of many senior’s budget so are often an unobtainable advantage to achieve a better quality of life.
Family caregivers can help their senior loved ones overcome the barriers to better hearing to help their seniors remain engaged with the world around them.
Consequences of Untreated Hearing Loss for Seniors
It doesn’t seem like much of a burden to daily living to people who can hear, but loss of hearing has far reaching implications for our senior loved ones.
It is estimated that as many as 80% of adults with hearing loss and could benefit from hearing aids don’t own them. The numbers indicate the size of the problem is large since, while nearly 27 million Americans age 50 and older have hearing loss, only one in seven uses a hearing aid. Many seniors are going through life unable to fully engage.
Senior’s health is negatively impacted when their hearing is left untreated.
- Anger, stress and loss of alertness are symptoms caused when hearing becomes impaired affecting daily activities. These conditions often progress into more serious outcomes such as concerns with physical safety when completing daily activities.
- Isolation is a major risk for our senior loved ones who wait to get their hearing loss identified and amplified with the use of hearing aids. Seniors will withdraw from interactions because they can no longer participate in conversation, they can’t get into the discussion or hear the important information conveyed in social settings. Instead of admitting it and appearing helpless, they just stop socializing with others.
- This isolation leads to depression for many older adults. Becoming sad and lonely – depression can lead to a variety of other issues including lack of self-care. This neglect can result in not only lack of socialization, but also a decrease in meal intake, unintentional weight loss, weakness and loss of independence.
- Cognitive loss – research has shown that a mild hearing loss can double the risk of dementia, a moderate loss tripled risk and a severe hearing loss increased dementia risk by five times. Hearing loss can atrophy the brain.
- Falls – when you walk, your ears pick up signals that help with balance. When you have hearing loss, you miss these diminished signals leading to falls.
New Hearing Aid Bill
Have you heard – no pun intended — that there was a bill passed into law in August of this year called the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Reauthorization Act of 2017?
This new law includes a provision for sales of hearing aids over the counter to adults with mild to moderate hearing loss. It will be fully in affect in the next two to three years to allow time for the FDA to establish safety, effectiveness and labeling standards.
Hopefully the new law will lower the cost of hearing aids to about $300 each.
Currently hearing aids cost anywhere from $900 to $3500 (or more) per ear. Not just the hearing aids but also the batteries and other supplies such as ear molds, new tubing, etc. are not covered by most insurance plans.
Tips for Purchasing Hearing Aids
Family caregivers can help their senior loved ones decide that testing is an important step toward wellness and then getting the amplification that is required to bring back as much hearing as possible.
Reconnecting your senior loved one to the world around him or her with the gift of hearing will improve your senior’s quality of life.
Advances in technology have reached hearing aids which are now more user friendly, effective and wearable.
There are many things to remember when helping seniors who have impaired hearing:
- If you think your senior is suffering from hearing loss, visit an audiologist who is trained to fully test your senior’s hearing health. There may be a reason for loss of hearing that can be fixed which doesn’t involve getting a hearing aid.
- Don’t settle for a cheap fix with low quality aids that won’t improve their hearing and could make things worse by amplifying all sounds making hearing conversation even more difficult.
- If the audiologist recommends a hearing aid, but your senior’s insurance won’t cover the cost and they can’t afford them, there are options that will make the aids easier to afford so seniors will actually buy them.
Seek out these options: ask audiologist if any local organizations can assist with price, contact Audient who provides hearing care for low-income people through a network of hearing-care providers at 1-866-956-5400, buy the aids online and pay your audiologist to program them correctly, save for them by setting aside money to purchase in the near future if not today, seek out financial aid or loan, contact Lions Club for help, or call Starkey Hear Now program at 1-800-328-8602 for help with a purchase.
- Encourage your senior to use hearing aids regularly, even when at home, so that they will reap the rewards.
- Take good care of hearing aids, keep them clean, store them safely, and don’t lose them (not that anyone tries). They are too costly to need repair and replacement frequently.
- Get insurance for them if you think your senior loved one may misplace them or unintentionally wear them in the shower (if not waterproof). It will likely be less expensive than replacement.
- New technology allows hearing aids to be wirelessly connected to smartphones, MP3 players, TVs, etc. for an increased level of connectivity. Some can even be recharged in a base similar to a smartphone which eliminates the need for tiny, expensive batteries.
“Aging is out of your control. How you handle it, though, is in your hands.” — Diane von Furstenberg