Hearing Loss

Psychosocial Implications of Hearing Loss

When someone discovers that he, she, or a loved one has a hearing loss, there is a tendency to experience a feeling of distress. Oftentimes this emotion coincides with concerns about aging and self-perceived negative social stigmas associated with aging.

These emotions, if turned inward, can cause the person with hearing difficulties to become alienated from family and friends. Here is what generally occurs. (Note that this is for individuals who have chosen not to receive professional hearing healthcare.)

1. Family members and friends, no matter how well intentioned, become frustrated trying to communicate with the hearing-impaired person.

2. The person with the hearing loss becomes even more frustrated with the family member(s) and friends who do try to communicate, but they lack the learned skills, such as those taught in Clear Speech, to do so effectively.

3. The person with the hearing loss sometimes places the blame for miscommunications on the family members or friends because “they speak too fast” or “mumble their words.”  The person with the hearing loss begins to withdraw.

4. Family members and friends sometimes confuse the miscommunications with memory loss and erroneously conclude that the person is experiencing diminishing memory capabilities.

5. The person with the hearing loss and the family members and friends drift apart in a sort of vicious cycle in which no one involved can help or reach out to the other.

Left unaddressed, hearing loss can lead to depression, sadness, paranoia, anxiety, insecurity, and a measurable decrease in an individual’s social activity, further enlarging the gap between family and friends.

What a sad situation! And what makes this scenario all the more sad is that it actually occurs quite frequently — and in most cases it doesn’t have to.

That’s because studies have shown that most people diagnosed with hearing loss can benefit from appropriately chosen and properly fit hearing aids designed for their unique audiological profile.

One study, conducted in 1999 by the Seniors Research Group for the National Council on Aging (NCOA) found that people within its sample (2,304 hearing-impaired people aged 45 and older, with both treated and untreated hearing loss) who had been properly fit with correct hearing aids experienced these benefits:

  • Better relationships with family members and friends
  • Better feelings about themselves
  • Improved mental health
  • Greater independence and security

Many of the participants also reported improvements in their confidence, relationships with children and grandchildren, and a better view of life overall.

The NCOA study confirmed what many audiologists already believed — hearing loss is closely linked to emotional well-being and quality of life.

And yet, many — too many — Americans keep themselves from seeking treatment for a variety of reasons. In fact, only about 22% of people who could benefit from hearing aids actually do use these products.  If you or a family member are among the 78% who are not using hearing technology, my advice is to seek advice from an AudigyCertified™ professional who has the education, training, and experience for successful hearing technology fitting and counseling.

Hearing is, after all, one of our five senses and a cornerstone in our ability to communicate with others.

Hearing Aids

Are Two Hearing Aids Better Than One?

When it comes to deciding how to remedy someone’s hearing difficulties, the logical assumption would seem to be that two hearing aids would be the best choice, right?

Well, yes…and no.

It is true that most of us — other than those with a birth defect or injury — have two ears, and in the majority of noise-induced cases, hearing loss occurs in both ears, although not always equally.

Therefore, the dispensing of two hearing aids — referred to clinically as binaural fitting — is far more prevalent than the dispensing of single, or monaural, hearing aids. However, historically this was not the case.

Original Electronic Hearing Aids

The first electronic hearing aids were large and bulky, mandating the amplification of just one ear.  It was not until the 1960s and development of behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids that it became more common for the dispensing of two hearing aids versus one.

Advantages of binaural hearing aids

The primary advantage of using two hearing aids is the ability of the wearer to localize the source of sound. This is because the use of two aids allows the brain to process two incoming acoustic signals rather than just one. Obviously, this is can be a boost for communication and understanding of speech, and studies note that binaural hearing aid users are more confident in their surroundings and are relieved at having to exert less effort in daily communication.

Binaural hearing aid use can also assist in safety issues, notably in situations where the location of an emergency vehicle or alarm is vital.

The evidence collected from clinical studies and observations is conclusive: Most people with hearing difficulties do better and are best served by the use of two hearing aids.

When a single hearing aid makes sense

But this is not a cut-and-dried absolute, as there are some individuals who do better with just one hearing aid. In an article published in the September 2005 issue of Journal of American academy of Audiology, researchers suggest that binaural hearing aid users experiencing difficulties in noisy environments remove one hearing aid (the left side), then attempt to determine whether or not their hearing ability improved.

The researchers also discovered that age can be a factor in interference caused by the worse of the two ears, which suggests that going from binaural to monaural hearing aid use in certain situations might be more beneficial for older persons than previously thought. The good news is that there are tests only a clinical audiologist can perform that can determine if the patient is best served by one or two aids.

Another consideration in determining if one or two aids are the appropriate choice is one’s lifestyle. In some cases, a single hearing aid may only be of benefit during certain activities.

And the winner is …

Ultimately, the answer to our question — two hearing aids or one? — is arrived at by the audiologist and patient discussing test results and evaluating lifestyle factors in order to decide on the most appropriate choice.

In most cases, two hearing aids are far and away the best choice. But for some individuals — if not always but at least in some situations — just one aid can be of benefit. To explore the options and get answers to your specific questions, consult with an AudigyCertified™ hearing care professional…because hearing is a wonderful gift!