According to the AARP, 17% of people aged 65 and older are socially isolated. 46% of women over 75 live alone. Recent research has found that feeling lonely puts us at a 26% increased risk of early death. Another study showed that feeling lonely (even if you see people regularly, but feel that they don’t understand you) is as physically harmful as smoking 15 cigarettes per day.
Untreated hearing loss is strongly correlated with loneliness and social isolation. It makes sense, doesn’t it? When we can’t hear people, it’s very difficult to feel connected to them. Conversations move slower, people need to speak differently to try to accommodate our hearing loss, and we simply can’t keep up.
In the early stages of hearing loss, we usually experience social fatigue after a much shorter time than usual. Some people mistake this fatigue for a separate age-related condition—”I can’t stay out as long as I used to.” In fact, the extra mental effort it takes to strain to hear, especially in a busy environment, makes us mentally exhausted much sooner than we’re accustomed to.
From this point, many people recognize that they have a hearing issue. They make an appointment for a hearing test, and may be advised to get a set of hearing aids. This is the right thing to do! Hearing aids keep us in the conversation, help keep our brains sharp, and help us stay connected to those we care about.
Unfortunately, this is not the norm. On average, people tend to wait seven years from the time they notice hearing loss to the time they do something about it. This is likely because they don’t understand the risks of leaving their hearing loss untreated, or don’t understand what is to be gained from a good set of hearing aids.
Being Around People Doesn’t Mean We’re Not Lonely
In order to feel connected, we need to be part of the conversation, not just in the same room. If we have hearing loss, we can be surrounded by family and friends, but still feel left out. Others chat away while we can only hear when someone speaks directly into our ear. With a set of hearing aids, we can be more present with everyone in the room, and be more aware of what’s happening.
Hearing aids have been shown to increase feelings of social connection, as well as confidence and independence. Feeling connected and not being lonely doesn’t necessarily mean we always need to be around people, and hearing aids help give us the independence to choose when we want to see others and when we need some alone time.
It’s Not Enough to Hear “Some of the Time”
While most people consider their hearing very important to them, the rate of hearing aid adoption does not seem to reflect that. This is partly because many people believe that it’s enough to be able to hear when “necessary.” For example, if your partner says loudly in your ear, “It’s time to go!”
It’s easy for us to think that being able to hear the important things means that we don’t need hearing aids. Unfortunately, the science does not back this up.
Even if we were able to hear everything that was said to us, but we couldn’t hear anything else, we would be in trouble. Our brains take in all kinds of information from the environment through our ears: birds chirping, fridges buzzing, feet shuffling, distant sounds and close sounds of all volume levels. These sounds feed our brains information that keeps our cognitive abilities in good order. When it comes to our brains, it really is true that we have to “use it or lose it.”
Hearing Aids Are Better Than Ever
Hearing aids today are technological marvels, housing tiny computers that are powerful enough to distinguish between speech and background sound, reduce reverberation from speech, connect via Bluetooth to smartphones and other devices, and even automatically recognize the characteristics of different environments and switch to the appropriate program. Some hearing aids can even use GPS to automatically return to a program that previously worked in a given space. While hearing aids are more powerful than ever, they also take less effort to use than ever!
If you or a loved one is having hearing issues, don’t hesitate to make an appointment for a hearing test today. Find out what’s going on with your hearing ability and take the right steps to keep yourself in the conversation and stay connected!
For generations now, hearing aids have been powered by tiny disposable batteries. This has meant that hearing aid wearers needed to keep a fresh supply of batteries on hand at all times, and manufacturers needed to build in a battery compartment to their hearing aids that could open and close. Battery compartments are an easy spot for moisture to accumulate, so leaving them open to dry out overnight is important to keeping your hearing aids working properly for the long term. But what if you didn’t have to worry about batteries at all?
Recent advancements in battery technology have dramatically changed the game in a number of industries, and hearing aids are no exception. Lithium-ion batteries can store a lot of energy in a small amount of space. This makes them able to power everything from power tools to smartphones to laptop computers, and, of course, hearing aids. Rechargeable lithium-ion batteries now allow hearing aids to work for a full day (or more), even when utilizing Bluetooth connections.
Rechargeable batteries mean you don’t need to keep a stash of fresh batteries around anymore, nor do you need to open the compartment door of your hearing aids. The battery compartment is sealed, which means moisture can’t get in in the first place. Overall, the process of powering and maintaining your hearing aids is significantly simplified with the use of rechargeable batteries.
Just about every hearing aid manufacturer offers rechargeable options at this point. Most will even have a rechargeable option or two amongst the variations of each hearing aid in their normal product line. You can usually tell the rechargeable option as it will have a letter “R” at the end of the product name. Let’s take a look at a few of the different manufacturers of hearing aids and talk a bit about their rechargeable options.
Unitron is a premium hearing aid brand offering superior sound quality and the innovative FLEX™ system. FLEX allows you to start with one tech level, and upgrade later using the same hearing aids if you decide you need more smart technology. FLEX also tracks your environmental usage, so you and your hearing healthcare professional can look over the data together, see how you’re using your hearing aids, and design the best programs to meet your specific needs and consider upgrading or downgrading your tech level.
Unitron offers rechargeable versions of its Moxi Move, Moxi Jump, and Stride models of hearing aids.
Oticon hearing aids strive to produce sound that works with your brain, which helps you better make sense of your sonic environment. BrainHearing™ technology can be found in all of Oticon’s devices, which helps your hearing aids communicate better with one another and with you to paint the most vivid picture of the sound around you.
Rechargeable options in Oticon’s product line include the More™ miniRITE R, the Opn S™, and Ruby families of hearing aids for adults. For children, Oticon offers the Opn Play™.
Signia designs hearing aids for the modern world. They start the process of finding you the right hearing aid by asking the question, “What is most important to you?” There’s a model of Signia hearing aid for everyone, whether you prefer to be stylish or discreet. Signia stays ahead of the curve in terms of design, technology, and integration.
Signia offers rechargeability in its Active, Styletto, Pure, and Motion hearing aid lines. Signia offers excellent “charge on the go” options, where your hearing aid case actually contains a battery that you charge at an outlet, and then you can charge your hearing aids anywhere by placing them in the case.
Phonak wants to ensure that your hearing aids provide the most natural sound available; that’s why they look to nature for inspiration. The Paradise and Marvel lines of hearing aids both are predominantly made up of rechargeable hearing aids, worn behind the ear.
The Swiss brand Hansaton believes in bringing out the best in every individual’s specific hearing intelligence. Because everyone’s hearing experience is different (based on head shape, ear canal shape, and ear shape) Hansaton strives to provide natural sound that our brains can interpret as accurately as the unaided ear. Hansaton offers rechargeability in its lines of behind-the-ear and external receiver systems.
Starkey offers hearing loss solutions for the 21st century, and has done a particularly good job of ensuring the best options for use with facemasks during the Covid-19 pandemic. They offer the world’s first wireless custom rechargeable hearing aids in their Livio line of hearing aids.
ReSound has been a pioneer in perfecting digital hearing aid technology since the early days of digital signal processing. Utilizing lithium-ion batteries or the even more efficient silver-zinc type, ReSound says its most compelling rechargeable hearing aids are the ReSound ONE, LiNX Quattro, and LiNX 3D.
So you’ve decided to get hearing aids. That’s great! Hearing aids are an important part of maintaining your best health and well-being, once hearing loss becomes an issue. While many people, unfortunately, wait too long to get hearing aids (the average is seven years after noticing hearing loss), addressing it now is much better than never. Your hearing aids will help keep you more active, more socially connected, and ultimately happier and healthier.
Throughout life, we find that abrupt changes can take some getting used to. You can expect to experience a range of emotions while you’re adjusting to your new hearing aids, but having an idea of what to expect can make the process feel easier while you’re going through it.
It’s Almost Too Much Sound
Remember that once upon a time, you had normal, youthful, healthy hearing. It’s true that we hear just as much with our brains as we do with our ears! Many sounds you encountered on a regular basis simply faded into the background of your mind, as your brain decided they were unimportant. As hearing loss becomes an issue, our brains see less information coming from our ears and get used to processing information differently.
When you start wearing hearing aids, you’ll notice things like the rustling of your clothing, the sound of your hair moving, the refrigerator buzzing or speakers hissing. You might notice the sounds of shoes on certain flooring surfaces, or the sounds of other people chewing. It may be annoying, at first, but if you stick with your hearing aids, soon enough you’ll be able to ignore these sounds without even thinking about it, while still being able to hear the sounds that are important to you.
Relearning to Hear Speech
If you’ve been living with hearing loss for some time, you might feel that hearing aids aren’t helping you to understand speech, at first. Though you’ll be able to hear speech clearly, it may be difficult to understand it. This is because our brains actually forget how to comprehend speech! While this can be disheartening at first, remember that the more you wear your hearing aids and encounter speech, the sooner you will regain the ability to understand clearly.
Many hearing healthcare providers offer classes to help retrain the brain to understand speech again. Some group classes may happen in the office, but much of the course can be accomplished online. Remember that if you wear your hearing aids every day, you’ll soon become adjusted to them and be able to move confidently through your routines and engagements, knowing you can hear everything you need to hear.
Fitting Is an Ongoing Process
Your initial fitting is based on the results of your hearing test. While this should offer up the most accurate fitting for your specific hearing loss, it may be that you’re not ready for that much amplification, or that slight adjustments are necessary. Hearing aids are composed of tiny, sensitive parts, so it’s impossible for every hearing aid to be exactly like every other.
While real ear measurements can help to ensure a more accurate fitting, remember that we hear just as much with our brains as with our ears! Your brain is what is adjusting to your hearing aids, and frequent fitting adjustments may be necessary over the first few weeks you have your hearing aids for you to adjust properly and comfortably. Especially if you experience pain in your ears while wearing your hearing aids, talk to your hearing healthcare provider about a fitting adjustment. Your relationship with your hearing healthcare provider should be ongoing to ensure you’re getting the best care possible with your hearing aids, so don’t be afraid to speak up and let them know that something doesn’t seem right!
Talk To Others Who Have Hearing Aids
You probably have an acquaintance, friend, or relative who wears hearing aids. Talk to them about what the adjustment process was like for them. They may have a good piece of advice, or it may just be nice to talk to someone who has experienced the same thing that you’re going through.
Fitting Will Likely Change Over Time
Make sure to get a hearing test at regular intervals. Hearing loss tends to progress for a while, then plateau, but there’s no way of knowing whether you’ve started wearing your hearing aids in the middle of the progression or at the end. Hearing aid fittings allow for easy adjustment, so if your hearing loss changes, your newly-required settings can be easily applied.
Hearing aids are the best thing you can do to keep yourself in the conversation, and live every day to the fullest! Congratulations on your new hearing aids!