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Why you don't need to be scared of hearing aids

4 min read

Why you don't need to be scared of hearing aids
The thought of having to use hearing aids can be scary, but it doesn't need to be. Dr Rony Ganguly talks us through the latest innovations in hearing aid technology
In the UK, there are 12 million people that suffer with hearing loss, and approximately 6.7 million could benefit from hearing aids. However, only about 2 million people use them. So why aren't people wearing hearing aids when they need them?

Why do people avoid using hearing aids?

The most common reason is stigma; people that have hearing loss and require hearing aids may feel as though hearing aids are meant only for older people. They can feel a sense of embarrassment, ageing and lack of confidence when wearing them.
"There is a huge population of people who are in denial about their hearing loss"
Some people have a lack of confidence with hearing aids and believe they will not help, or will even make their hearing worse. Individuals sometimes believe they will be dependent on their hearing aids, thus choose not to use them out of desire for independence.
There is a huge population of people who are in denial about their hearing loss. They may use coping mechanisms such as turning volume louder, subtitles on television and live subtitles on online video calls, as well as asking people to repeat themselves. This denial is usually due to stigma and the perceived aesthetics of hearing aids. 
Man holding TV remote
People avoid wearing hearing aids as they feel like they will be an inconvenience to their lives and will be uncomfortable in their ears. Audiologists all explain that when fitted with hearing aids, the initial two to three weeks is an acclimatisation period as well as a perseverance period. Once this has been overcome, the hearing aids stop being an inconvenience and can transform their lives.
In the UK, patients with hearing loss can obtain hearing aids free of charge through the NHS. However, the choice of style, manufacturer and level of technology may be limited and can also involve lengthy waiting lists. There are a greater number of hearing aid options available in the private sector but these can sometimes be expensive, which can be a prohibitive factor for individuals.

Recent advancements in hearing aids

There are some negative perceptions towards hearing aids, such as the appearance. Many people have the idea that hearing aids are huge and noticeable. However, most modern hearing aids are very inconspicuous and are not the huge behind the ear machine that people remember from their childhood.
There are many different types of hearing aids such as invisible in ear canal, completely in canal and receiver in canal hearing aids. The hearing aid selection is discussed with each individual at their hearing assessment, and the correct hearing aids are selected according to their hearing loss
There have been great advancements in technology such as rechargeable hearing aids. These are great for individuals with dexterity issues. They are better for the environment, as well as much easier to utilise as there is no need to change batteries.
Man wearing a hearing aid
Hearing aids have artificial intelligence where they utilise AI algorithms to adapt according to the listening environment. For example, if a hearing aid user is in a restaurant with a lot of background noise, directional microphones focus on the speech and reduce the noise from competing directions, helping to hear conversation clearly in front.
There is now wireless connectivity in many hearing aids, which allows hearing aids to be connected to mobile devices, tablets and television allowing direct audio streaming into hearing aids. Phone calls and online video calls are much easier to hear as this stops the need to remove hearing aids to wear headphones, allowing truly hands-free phone calls. There is also the ability to have a mobile app on devices to adjust hearing aids in different listening environments in consequence allowing patients to have more control. 
There is still a taboo against hearing aids but there are ample reasons to wear hearing aids, the main one being improved communication. Untreated hearing loss can cause difficulties with communication, consequently adding strain to relationships. This can then cause feelings of social isolation and depression for the individual with hearing loss; therefore, the hearing aids will increase wellbeing and increase connections with others.
"The functionality and comfort of hearing aids has greatly increased"
It is very important to hear in our everyday lives, not just for conversation, but also for our safety. Having the ability to hear sounds such as fire alarms, cars and everyday surroundings is essential. 
Hearing aids also reduce the risk of cognitive decline. Untreated hearing loss has a direct impact on cognitive decline and likely development of dementia. Hearing aids reduce this risk due to auditory stimulation and engagement in conversation. The hearing aids also prevent further deterioration of hearing loss by stimulation of cochlear hair cells. 
In conclusion, wearing hearing aids is very beneficial for wellbeing, allowing individuals to interact with others and hear better. All of the advancements in technology mean the functionality and comfort of hearing aids has greatly increased, considerably improving quality of life for people with hearing loss.
Dr Rony Ganguly, is a doctor of audiology, founder and managing director of Pindrop Hearing
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