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Thursday, October 14, 2010

To Wear Hearing Aids or Not?

To paraphrase Shakespeare, "to wear hearing aids or not to wear them" is one reader's dilemma. She wrote me recently to ask the following question: Do people with mild or moderate hearing loss benefit by wearing hearing aids?

This has been her experience. One audiologist told her she didn't need hearing aids. A second audiologist said she did and she purchased a pair. She wore them for awhile, stopped wearing them, and has recently started wearing them again. In noisy situations and when people whisper, she finds that the aids are helpful. But she's self conscious about wearing them and has a spouse who is non supportive. She wonders if it's worth it when she can function without them.

I've emailed her my two cents on the topic. It's an issue I've debated myself as regular readers of my blog know. I often take hearing "breaks" without my hearing aids because listening tires me. But I do wear them most of the time. Somewhere I got the idea that wearing hearing aids with a milder loss helps your brain adjust to hearing through them and is better than waiting until the loss is greater. Her audiologist told her that by wearing them now she would not have as great a loss in the future as she would if she didn't wear them.

Readers, what are your thoughts on this?

  • Do people with mild or moderate hearing loss benefit by wearing hearing aids?
  • Does wearing hearing aids help prevent hearing loss?


Frieda said...

I have a mild/mod hearing loss in my R ear and a severe loss in my L. I was fitted with aids in Kindergarten, so I am used to wearing them and wear them pretty much all day.

I think it would be more challenging and difficult to wearing them as a teen or adult. First, I would be more self conscious; second, I think it takes time for our brains to adjust and process sound. Think of someone with a new pair of glasses. If they wore them all day long, they may get headaches or the bridge of their nose would become sore. Wearing a new pair of aids ALL day long has caused me headaches and a sore on my ear from BTE aids. It just takes time and increasing the amount of time you wear them to become used to them.

As to the second question, I don't believe hearing aids prevent future hearing loss. It will either be genetic, geriatric, or due to environmental conditions, such as being exposed to loud noise. Perhaps the audiologist meant to say that the wearer will be able to get used to any future hearing loss by wearing hearing aids now.

(e said...

I wish I knew the answer. But, I have to say if you are questioning whether or not you need hearing aids, most likely you do. Like Frieda says, she is going to have to go through a lot of adjusting. It will be really hard at first, I'm sure. But, I think she should give it a try and see what happens. The only way she'll know if she needs them if she tries them out. I wish her the best of luck.


Aaron said...

Absolutely, if the loss is not progressive, mild and moderate hearing loss is generally well suited for hearing aids. And yes, they can be very difficult to adjust to. I personally had much pain and discomfort both when I first started using aids, and during the initial period of all new aids (3 pairs now in 12 years). If the loss is progressive, I highly suggest learning ASL and going the bilingual route. This is my personal choice, since my loss is highly progressive.

jqualkin said...

I think if they help wear them. I have a mild/mod hearing loss in my left hear and no loss in my right. When I am in crowds, in a restaurant or at the lunch table in the teachers lounge I can not understand what people are saying. I wish my audiologist would give me a hearing aid to wear for situations like that. Most of the time in my masters classes I am fighting other noises in the classroom a hearing aid would help immensely.

Steve said...

As I understand it, your hearing is like a muscle: use it or lose it. The longer you leave a hearing loss unaided, the harder it becomes for you to understand speech and recognise words - your brain gets used to processing the inputs from your ears and if it is not processing and responding to words then you gradually lose the ability to do so. I think it's really important to get a HA as soon as you need it.

People with mild hearing loss can probably get by without HAs and if it's really mild they might not even notice the problem. It's so long since my loss was mild that I can't remember! Each person will know within themselves when they aren't hearing enough.

In the moderate loss range then your starting to loss the ability to hear voices so I'd say someone who has a moderate loss who doesn't wear HAs is missing out.


Liz said...

I think wearing hearing aids help. I was moderate to severe when I first started wearing mine. I'm now profound.

I was self concious wearing mine at first, but I got over it slowly after just about over a month. I wouldn't be without mine, but I do have breaks as so my ears get air inside them.

Hearing aids don't prevent future hearing loss, because there are other factors involved like Frieda said. Mine is mastoid infection of the right ear, which I've battled since beginning of this year, and hopefully has finally gone. But this has left me deafer, hence now profoundly.

It's a shame her partner is not more supportive.

SpeakUp Librarian said...

Thank you everyone for your wonderful comments. I am sure she is going to find this very helpful. I especially liked Steve's analogy of hearing as a muscle. That makes sense to me.

If anyone else wishes to comment, please do. Thanks again for all the supportive remarks.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Steve and have been told the use it or lose it phrase many times.

If you don't exercise the hearing part of the brain then when you do need to use it it's harder. The auditory memory just isn't there.

Anonymous said...

Hi - I'm a first-time commenter, but I've been reading your blog for over a year and really enjoy it.

My daughter has a bilateral mild loss and does very well with hearing aids. Without her aids, her speech recognition threshold is 30 db in the left ear and 35 db in the right ear. With aids, her SRT is brought down to 15 db. It took her no time at all to adjust to them, but perhaps that's because she was only five when she got them and young brains adjust faster than older ones do.

Your question about whether or not hearing aids help prevent future loss is interesting. I took my grandmother to the audiologist last week - she has an age-related moderate to severe loss. The audiologist we saw said that kids really benefit from wearing hearing aids because it does keep their speech recognition thresholds lower (she didn't mention anything about pure tones). This makes sense to me because the aids keep the sounds going to your brain, which has to process them - the use it or lose it theory. I suppose this is what audis are talking about when they stress the importance of keeping the auditory nerves stimulated.

However, my daughter's audiologist never mentioned this, but I've never asked her.

I hope my grandmother adjusts well to her new aids - she's getting some Phonak Audeo Yes with an open-fit soft dome, which I hope will make it more comfortable for her. My daughter loves her Phonal Micro Nios.

Interesting post!


Hearing Aids Teviews said...

Great post ... this really helpful

Thank you
Jack from

Anonymous said...

I have a question for jqualkin. Why won't the audiologist sell you hearing aids?
As a new hearing aid wearer with mild to moderate high frequency loss in both ears, I find it is still difficult to hear and carry on a conversation in a very noisy environment even with the HA's. Does anyone else experience this?
Look forward to your thoughts. Thank you. Betty

Anonymous said...

I also have a mild to moderate loss in both ears and have been wearing aids for 1 year. It took some time, as others said, to get used to the new sounds. I still don't discriminate well in crowds [I think I hear the same with or without the aids] but I find them very helpful for watching a non-HDTV set where I have to turn up the volume and voices still sound muddled. I don't wear them all the time at home but usually wear them when I go out.
When I saw the audiologist, she told me she wasn't sure if I was a good candidate for aids or not, because the loss was not great, but I think they make a big difference. When I take them out at night, my ears go dead.

Anonymous said...

This comment is for anonymous who wrote on Oct. 30th from Betty. Thanks for your input. I was wondering if your audiogram looks like mine. I have normal hearing until the 3000 frequency and them it drops in a line (ski slope loss) to 70 decibels at 8000 frequency. So I guess it is mild at 3000 and gets to moderately severe by the highest frequency measured of 8000. I appreciate your input and am still grappling with the HAs - to wear them or not. I agree that TV is much clearer and ungarbled when wearing the aids - but am frustrated that they do not help in noisy crowded situations. Look forward to your response. Thank you. Betty

Anonymous said...

I haven't really been anywhere since Wednesday...Thanksgiving at the house, and we were only 3 so no problem. I use TV Ears a lot for TV.
Today I intentionally did NOT wear them to church and the coffee hour afterward, just as a test. Everything seemed about the same, not too bad, until the coffee hour, when I was talking to a woman I talk to every week. I really had to struggle to catch everything she said in a noisy room. They'll be in next Sunday for sure.