Saturday, May 22, 2010


Why Hearing Aids Get Put in a Drawer, Never to Come Out Again
"Two years ago I discussed hearing aids with my doctor. He told me the best place to have an evaluation and said, just like someone needing a hip replacement, I'd know when the time was right. So I had the evaluation recently--two years later." M, age 80+
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Help Parents Age Well offers something special. An advisory panel of stellar seniors with "smarts" and good, common sense that have served them well as they do their best to age well. They live in several parts of the United States, have at least one adult child (many of whom have spouses), and they'll share thoughts with you and participate in answering your questions in the weeks ahead.

All senior advisors are at least 80 years old; possess a good understanding of themselves, and were selected because of their sensitivity to the challenges of aging, their ability to meet those challenges and their ability to express themselves.

A weekly check with my advisors reviews ideas for the weekly posts. When I first contacted M about hearing loss, she informed me she just got a hearing aid. She knows first hand; it's all fresh in her mind. So I introduce her today, and will continue to introduce at least one advisor each month.

Inscription over a gate on the campus of Scripps College, Claremont California

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Meet M. She has been widowed 11 years and had two sons. One son died unexpectedly after finishing college and becoming engaged--two years before the death of her husband. She has one married son, who lives less than an hour away.

M was a stay-at-home mom, helped her mother (who died at 108) to age well, and had a responsible office position at a company's headquarters while her boys were in college. Since her husband died, she has been involved in volunteer work, was president of a club of 300+ women and today handles rentals for the historic building that houses that club.

M's hearing aid experience

Not good! "Initially the hearing aids were so uncomfortable I pulled them out while driving--after leaving the audiologist's...and managed to drop one of the tiny batteries on the floor. They aren't that easy to see and find! I was so discouraged and thought what a waste of thousands of dollars.

I probably would have gone home like so many people do--and put them in a drawer and never looked at them again, except for the fact that they gave me an appointment for two weeks later. (It was included in the price.) But I left them in a drawer until two days before the scheduled appointment and decided I'd better try them. They didn't seem to fit well--felt lose, were uncomfortable, and my ears itched."

Perseverance! "I might not have persevered if the audiologist hadn't been persistent and encouraging, making an adjustment, and giving me some pointers along with another appointment (again included in the price). I felt I would have to give an accounting of myself in two weeks so I wore them but still wasn't convinced. I learned I wasn't putting the batteries in correctly at the next appointment, and then--"

Amazing! "I left the audiologist's after the third appointment to attend a meeting when I realized I was hearing everything! I didn't have to pretend laughing when people laughed at something I couldn't hear; I didn't have to be embarrassed to ask someone to repeat something. I was used to piecing a conversation together as well as I could and maybe missed 10-15%. Now I hear it all."

End Result: "I no longer must turn the TV volume up so loud that I worry about my neighbors complaining. It took three additional appointments, but I'm used to the hearing aids and I'm no longer aware of what I call 'exaggerated sounds' that I heard in the beginning--things that sounded weird-- like the rustle of tissue paper or water running. I'm very pleased at this point and I give credit to the encouragement of the audiologist."

THE BIG QUESTION: Why do people resist hearing aids?

  • "Certainly because they take time to get used to and they must be cleaned and batteries must be put in correctly and replaced when necessary.
  • But also hearing aids--unlike glasses--are a symbol of old age--like a cane. And many older people's vanity gets in the way.
  • You know it takes wisdom to start using a cane, and it takes wisdom to know when you should start using a hearing aid."

M reminds adult children:

--"Old people can become very stubborn about certain things." Translated: if you've mentioned a hearing aid to a parent once, continued suggestions probably won't help (unless it's a suggestion from a doctor).

--"If you're asked to repeat something, repeat slowly--not louder."

--"The tone of voice that accompanies talking loud, can be easily mistaken for impatience."

--"Try not to convey impatience to your parents."

PS. M also mentioned the fact that men may be more resistant to hearing aids because they usually don't have hair, like women, that hides their ears and thus, their hearing aid.

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