Did you see that comedy sketch / movie scene / television episode making fun of the senior with hearing loss?
It’s really no laughing matter!
According to the National Institutes of Health, one in three older adults between 65 and 74 years old have hearing loss and nearly half of those who are 75 or older have difficulty hearing.
Because hearing loss in older adults can lead to isolation, loneliness, and depression, solutions are important to the well-being of our senior loved ones, especially those who want to age in place.
Unfortunately, fear of being seen as one of those humorous “old people” — and even seen as having diminished mental capabilities — make many seniors hesitant to admit their hearing issues.
Of course, a fear of having to spend thousands on traditional hearing aids feeds the denial of many.
There must be solutions acceptable to more seniors, right?
New Tech Hearing Solutions
We have long been interested in solutions for those with hearing loss after seeing up close what loss of that sense can mean to individuals’ lives.
Fortunately the tech industry, as we saw all over CES 2019, is finally recognizing hearing loss as a problem they can address creatively – – and, for many seniors, at a lower cost.
There is even a buzzword for it – – “hearables.”
Traditional Hearing Aids
Yes, the traditional hearing aid companies were there, with continued advancements in their products. Digital technology has enabled hearing aids to do so much more in providing clarity and bringing returning hearing to those with severe and profound losses.
In addition to high prices (Medicare does not cover them, though some supplemental plans may), the requirement to purchase most hearing aids through hearing specialists rather than online holds some back from buying them. While the arguments for professional assistance with these complicated devices make sense, this process also is seen as keeping the cost of hearing aids high.
Those who checked out hearing aids before and decided they weren’t right for them might want to take another look. New aids have better sound quality and some are nearly invisible, addressing two of the concerns we have heard most.
Earbud Functionality for Hearing Loss
What we found most interesting were the innovation approaches of several developers of ear buds, those headphone replacements that go right into the ear of users, not unlike traditional hearing aids.
Those developers were touting the ability of their devices to enhance sound for those with hearing loss, often through a companion smartphone app (yet another way smartphones are making themselves essential to seniors’ lives).
Not lost on us is the irony that devices seen as causing hearing loss in many can be used to overcome that loss.
We love the idea seniors — or those of any age with hearing loss — can overcome their loss with devices that have become almost ubiquitous instead of needing a hearing solution they may see as coming with a stigma attached (we hate acknowledging a stigma, which we see as wrong and narrow minded, but we have been told by many they don’t want to be seen wearing hearing aids for that reason).
This is an area we want to investigate further and hope to test some devices and report further to you on their effectiveness. They seem like a solution that will find appeal with many and will hopefully provide real benefits.
Cochlear implants have long been a solution for those of all ages with moderate to profound hearing loss who are not getting sufficient benefit from hearing aids.
Have you heard of them before? Rather than amplify sound, as hearing aids do, cochlear implants replace the function of the damaged parts of the inner ear and send sound signals to the brain.
Advances in digital technology have also done much for cochlear implants, providing gains in functionality while also improving the visual aspects of the devices.
We have followed these devices for many years and think they are worth considering for those who can’t get the quality of sound they want from other devices.
Excited About the Future of Hearing Tech
We are excited to see so much attention given to solutions for hearing loss by the technology industry. Older adults and those who care for and about them will benefit.
Sure, it’s easy to say the tech industry is finally recognizing the exploding market size and buying power wielded by older adults. That’s what it takes to get the investment that leads to innovation and products to solve problems.
We look forward to seeing, at CES 2020, the solutions another year innovation in hearables brings to older adults with hearing loss.