In 1998, the National Council on Aging conducted the largest survey ever to determine the effects of hearing loss on older Americans. Over 4000 hearing-impaired people (both users and non-users of hearing instruments) and their families were surveyed. Untreated hearing loss has serious emotional and social consequences for people, according to the National Council on Aging.

This study determined the affects of hearing loss on people’s lives. It also included the attitudes and perceptions of family members. It compared the affects of untreated hearing loss (those who do not wear hearing aids) to treated hearing loss (those wearing hearing aids). The results of this survey are summarized below:

Cost of Untreated Hearing Loss

People with untreated hearing loss reported:
– Less likely to participate in organized social activities
– More likely to feel worried and anxious
– Greater tendency to feel insecure, irritable, or tense
– More stressful relationships with family
– A perception that other people get angry at me for no reason
– Increased levels of paranoia
– Social isolation

In summary, the quality of their lives was compromised significantly by not getting help for their hearing loss. I find it sad and ironic that at a time in one’s life when things should be getting easier, people with untreated hearing loss and their family members actually end up struggling more. But it does not have to be this way.

People who had been fitted with hearing aids were shown to have better relationships with their families, better feelings about themselves, improved mental health and greater independence and security.

Benefits of Treatment

Seniors (ages 50 and older) who sought help for their hearing loss and had been properly fitted with hearing instruments reported better relationships at home with much less struggle. They also reported improved feelings about themselves and a sense of independence in their social life. And an unexpected benefit was a better sex life!

Relations with children and grandchildren also improved. Overall, people with properly fit hearing aids they viewed life in a more positive way. The families of hearing aid users also reported these improvements, but even more so than the hearing aid users themselves.

Barriers to Hearing Aid Use

So why do so many older hearing-impaired Americans not use hearing aids? About half of the non-users cited cost as a deterrent. Maybe, they didn’t realize for $3.00 per day, one’s entire life could change for the better.

That’s what an advanced set of hearing aids cost over a five-year period. If they only knew that the true cost of untreated hearing loss is so much greater than the long-term, financial investment of hearing aids.

Denial is the most important barrier to hearing aid use. Most hearing-impaired people not using hearing aids think they don’t need them or can get by without them. More than two-thirds of the non-users surveyed said, My hearing is not bad enough or I can get along without one.

It’s sad that millions of older people let denial get in the way of treatments that could improve the quality of their lives. Denial is complex and it takes time to work through it. It’s a natural, human reaction to gradual hearing loss. But it doesn’t have to go on for years and years.

Get On With Your Life

If you are coming to terms with a hearing loss, it is time for you to confront yourself. Get support from your family. They noticed long ago how much you struggle.

Remember, no one is to blame. Take action and get the help you need. The good news is when people do seek help for their hearing loss, self esteem and confidence are quickly restored. Who knows, maybe your sex life could also improve!