Using Hearing Aids Can Be Frustrating For Older Adults. Experts Say These 5 Tips Can Help.

By Sreek Cherukuri, MD. Board-Certified Ear, Nose, and Throat Surgeon

Navigating the world of hearing aids can be a source of frustration for many older adults. The constant struggle of finding and putting on hearing aids, coupled with the difficulty in battery replacement and instances of malfunction, underscore the challenges faced by seniors in utilizing these devices.

A 2021 survey shed light on the widespread nature of hearing problems in older Americans. The study, published in JAMA Open Network and based on a sample of 2,803 individuals aged 71 and older, revealed that hearing issues become increasingly pervasive with age, surpassing 90% in those 85 and older. However, only 29% of those with hearing loss opted to use hearing aids, citing various barriers.

Barriers to hearing aid use include cost, with devices ranging from nearly $1,000 for over-the-counter models to over $6,000 for prescription versions. Additionally, the stigma associated with aging and self-consciousness about wearing hearing aids contribute to low adoption rates. Usability is another concern, as devices become smaller and more technologically complicated, potentially posing challenges for older individuals.

To address these hurdles, specialists in hearing health offer valuable tips for older adults struggling with hearing aids:

  1. Opt for ease of use: Some devices require you to log in to an app on your smartphone to simply change the volume. Also, batteries are tiny and quite challenging to change, and some batteries only last 3-7 days. Select simpler devices that can be charged overnight and operate for a day without needing recharging.
  2. Consider larger devices: For those with dexterity issues or compromised vision, a larger device can be a godsend.
  3. Check out accessories: Accessories like remote microphones for clearer conversations or TV watching can improve overall user experience.
  4. Recognize the 21 day break-in period. Medical studies have shown it takes about 3 weeks for the brain to acclimate to the way a hearing device sounds. One strategy is to use the device for about 30 minutes on the first day, and increase by 30 minutes each day.
  5. Remember that hearing aids are not the only choice. Personal assistive listening (PAL) devices are much easier to use for many seniors and incorporate many of the above advantages.

Breaking down these barriers is essential, considering the potential consequences of untreated hearing loss, such as cognitive decline, dementia, falls, depression, and social isolation. With the right strategies and support, older adults can enhance their hearing experience and improve their overall quality of life.

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