We recently had the opportunity to hold a seminar at one of our local retirement homes. It was the first meeting of its kind since opening Sage Hearing Solutions. Our intention was to take the opportunity, in a very personal way, to touch individuals with hearing loss and educate them on, not only their hearing loss, but where it comes from and how hearing instruments can help. During our time with our attendees, we noticed a couple of common themes. First, all but one of the current hearing aid wearers bought their instruments based on a lower price-tag. This is understandable. Hearing instruments can be expensive and most people are misinformed regarding the marriage that should happen between the technology the hearing aid has to offer, the lifestyle of the person with hearing loss, and the technician who is fitting the instrument. Make no mistake about it, you really do get what you pay for. Our attendees were quit surprised to hear this, even though most were very DISsatisfied with the way their instruments were performing. A key point during our presentation was that hearing aids must be programmed specifically for each environment that the wearer encounters. If a hearing aid is programmed to amplify sound because he/she needs to understand the pastor in church, that same program may be incredibly uncomfortable when going into a loud dining hall for a meal. With an inexpensive hearing aid, this will almost always be the case. In the case of someone who is sedentary, that cheaper technology may suffice, but for our more active users, cheapest isn’t always best! Currently, our Senior population is the MOST active it has ever been (http://transgenerational.org/aging/demographics.htm). This requires that our seniors are able to stay connected to their work environment, exercise programs, family functions, movies, dance classes, church functions, etc. If a person can’t hear properly because the instruments are NOT fit properly, or don’t possess the proper technology, it will have a negative long-term effect on the individuals willingness to stay active. Which leads us into the second common theme we noticed during the seminar. That is, unfortunately, that most people view their hearing health and hearing aids as a luxury item, as opposed to a very necessary part of living a better life. Currently, one in five Americans have a hearing loss and only 20% of those individuals seek help (http://www.asha.org/Aud/Articles/Untreated-Hearing-Loss-in-Adults/). Even though an individual knows they have a need, they will often times make the decision to purchase hearing aids based on price or forgo hearing aids completely. For us, as care providers, these two major issues have become a point of frustration for two reasons. The first is clear… individuals with hearing loss are not properly educated in almost all of the aspects of their hearing health. For instance, when to be tested, what technology best suits their specific needs and what to look for in the trial period and beyond. The second issue we have is this… It is the responsibility of the practitioner to convey all the necessary information about hearing health to a prospective patient. Clearly, this isn’t being done effectively enough. Individuals should be informed of the differences technology has to offer and how that technology applies to their specific loss. Realistic expectations must be set for the practitioner/patient relationship as well as the hearing aid/patient relationship. If a practitioner cannot emphasis this importance, how can we expect our patients to take their hearing health seriously? It inspires David and I to continue to reach out to the people in our community through informative seminars and in-home visits. We are looking forward to changing the way people view their hearing loss.
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