Hearing loss is one of the only major issues we face in life that has a relatively straightforward solution.
But after more than 20 years of treating patients with the best hearing aids available, I’ve learned that it isn’t always so easy to accept that you need help in the first place.
There’s a pattern that becomes especially common around the holiday season. As families gather to swap memories and laugh side-by-side, the isolation experienced by loved ones with hearing loss is thrown into stark relief. Relatives notice that their once vibrant, joyful family member has become withdrawn and disinterested. They sit in front of the blaring TV and disengage from the festivities as much as possible, for fear of the frustration and humiliation brought on by even basic conversation.
Yet when someone they love brings them into the office for a hearing test, they’re guarded and reluctant to accept assistance. They may not say so, but I can see it on their face; They don’t believe they need to be there, and they accepted the appointment only to humor the concerned spouse, child, or grandchild that brought them in. They default to the old habit of letting their partner speak for them, and mostly keep quiet.
Of course, it’s not difficult to imagine why new patients are reserved. Audiology has changed a lot over more than two decades in the field, but if there’s one thing that hasn’t, it’s the perceived social stigma of hearing loss. People think that accepting hearing aids into their lives is admitting that they’ve gotten old, that they’ve become irrelevant in the constant forward movement of the day-to-day. It’s a fascinating fact to note that few people hesitate to wear glasses when their eyesight is poor, but so much as mention hearing aids to someone with hearing loss and you’ll almost always get a strong emotional reaction.
It’s my job to guide my patients past this fear, and out of the dark, isolated place hearing loss has trapped them in. To do that, I try to be as upfront as possible about the positives and negatives of treatment. I start by asking “If hearing aids can help, are you willing to try them?” This usually elicits a pause, and a long, hard look — rarely an actual answer. “Well,” I continue, “Why don’t you tell me what you already know about hearing aids?” I want all of the good, the bad, and the indifferent they can give me. A lot of the time, they won’t mention the negative things they’ve heard about the devices, so I’ll bring up those perceived negative aspects myself. As we dig into all the conflicted, often incorrect popular information about hearing aids together, I start to see their wall come down.
After all, for me, it’s not about selling my patients a product. It’s about improving their quality of life. As long as I can get that across in an honest way, I can start to build trust and break down the barriers between myself and the patient.
From equipping thousands of patients with the tools they need to step back into their lives, I know the tremendous positive impact that hearing aids can have on a person’s wellbeing. But what makes me even more confident of that fact are the follow-up visits, days and weeks after I first fit a new patient for their devices. Where they were once withdrawn and hesitant to speak, they’re now chipper and talkative. I see their personality beginning to reemerge. Slowly, as they adjust further to the hearing aids, their life is totally transformed.
The reason I’m able to tell new folks who come to my office all the incredible things hearing aids can do for them is because I listen to my patients. I’ve heard so many people tell me that the devices allowed them to finally hear the sermon in church on Sunday, that they went to a board meeting and were able to fully understand everything that their colleagues said. That they were able to have a conversation about everything that’s happened since their grandson went to college without having to ask him to repeat a thing. That they’re able to enjoy the holidays, brought in from the cold of isolation to the warmth of family and human connection.
If you or a loved one suffers from hearing loss, it’s important to understand that as difficult as it can be to seek the treatment that will restore quality of life, there’s nothing to be afraid of. Hearing aids don’t suddenly make you seem 100 years old, or cost thousands of dollars without offering any benefit. The reality is, for most people with hearing loss, coming in for a hearing aid consultation is one of the simplest and most powerful decisions they will make in their lives.
Don’t let yourself or someone you love be caught out in the cold this holiday season. Schedule a complimentary consultation today, or give us a call at 330-779-8096, and take the first step towards a better life free from hearing loss!
Rebecca Donchess M.A., CCC-A