There are more 31.5 million Americans today that have hearing loss (two-thirds of which are over age 55) but less than half ever seek treatment. Here are some tips that may help.
Being aware of hearing loss as you grow older is important because impaired hearing can have a negative impact on your quality of life. In fact, studies show that older people with hearing impairment often withdraw, become depressed and may even die before their time. Because hearing loss usually develops over years, many people aren't aware of the extent of their loss until family or friends bring it to their attention. Here's a simple test to help your mom see where she stands:
- Does she have trouble hearing over the telephone?
- Does she listen to TV at a high volume level?
- Does she frequently have to ask others to repeat themselves?
- Does she have difficulty understanding people in groups or noisy situations?
- Does she have difficulty understanding women or young children?
- Does she have trouble knowing where sounds are coming from?
- Is she unable to understand when someone talks to her from another room?
- Does she avoid family meetings or social situations because she "can't understand"?
Depending on her hearing problem there are various devices or treatments that can help. Some possible solutions include:
- Hearing Aids: Recent advances in design and technology have dramatically improved hearing aids over the past few years. She should work with an audiologist to find the right kind. Also, ask about having a trial period so she can try out several different aids. Costs typically range between $800 and $3,000 per ear. Medicare doesn't cover hearing aids nor do most health insurers. For more information on the different kinds of hearing aids, models and new technology visit www.hearingloss.org and order the "Consumer's Guide to Hearing Aids."
- Assistive Devices: These are products that can help with less than perfect hearing, such as telephone amplifying devices, TV and radio listening systems, assistive listening devices or alert products like flashing light door bells, smoke detectors, etc. A good place to locate these types of products is at www.abledata.com.
- Cochlear implants: If hearing loss is severe, cochlear implant surgery may provide a possible solution. Ask her doctor about this option.
Discount Hearing Aids
For the millions of Americans that need hearing aids but can't afford them, there's a great program that can help called "Audient." It is a relatively new non-profit service that helps people purchase new hearing aids at greatly discounted prices. To be eligible, your income must be no higher than two-and-a-half times the national poverty level - $24,500 for an individual, plus $8,500 for each additional family member. No asset test is required and financing plans are also available. If eligible, you'll receive an examination by a hearing health professional (within their nationwide network), and then be fitted with new digital, behind-the-ear hearing aids. Routine follow-up visits are also provided. Discounts range between 30% and 75%. To learn more visit www.audientalliance.org or call 877-283-4368.
Savvy Tips: Many states have a telecommunications equipment distribution program that provides free telephone equipment to assist people with their hearing problem. Check with your local telephone company or visit www.tedpa.org to find what's available in your state. And a great resource for hearing loss information is the Better Hearing Institute, which also offers a free booklet titled "Your Guide to Better Hearing." To get a copy, visit www.betterhearing.org or call 800-327-9355.
Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living” book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization’s official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.