Hearing loss is common and many people experience it at some point during their lives. Approximately 48 million Americans live with hearing loss. The likelihood of developing hearing loss increases as one ages, as 33% of those between the ages of 65 and 74 experience some degree of hearing loss, along with 50% of those over the age of 75.
Although hearing loss is prevalent, many people who would benefit from wearing hearing aids choose not to. Research shows that 28.8 million people between the ages of 20 and 69 would benefit from using hearing aids but less than 16% use them. Furthermore, less than 30% of those over 70 with hearing loss use hearing aids. Several reasons exist that help explain why so many people choose to not use hearing aids.
Many reasons for not wearing them
One of the most cited reasons for not wearing hearing aids is that they are uncomfortable or do not fit well. Hearing aids that wrap around the ear can cause discomfort and may also interfere with wearing glasses. Hearing aids with ear molds may also cause problems like irritation and skin breakdown. Hearing aids frequently require adjustments in order to fit well on the user’s ear, often causing frustration that leads to abandoning the use of the hearing aid altogether.
Many of those who would benefit from wearing hearing aids choose not to because they do not work well. Often times, the benefits of using a hearing aid do not meet the expectations of the user. Additionally, hearing aids may become less effective over time. The severity of an individual’s level of hearing loss can increase with age, requiring changes to their hearing aids. The individual may not realize that the ineffectiveness of the hearing aids is not because the hearing aids no longer work, but that their hearing has gotten worse. Sometimes the decrease in effectiveness of the hearing aid may simply be because it has not been cleaned properly. Regardless of the cause, people often choose to not use hearing aids that they perceive to be ineffective.
Old stigmas persist, as do high cost
The stigma associated with using hearing aids is another significant factor that contributes to the low rate of usage. Many seniors with hearing loss associate using hearing aids with looking old, weak, or disabled. These perceptions lead many to delay seeking treatment. Additionally, many are afraid that using hearing aids will affect their personal and professional lives. They fear that their friends and family will not understand the problems that are associated with hearing loss, and that they may lose opportunities and responsibilities at work.
Lastly, as with many medical devices, cost is often a factor that prohibits use. An analysis of multiple studies on hearing aid usage showed that half of the studies listed financial reasons as a factor for not using hearing aids. Hearing aids can cost several thousands of dollars for each device. Considering that most people with hearing loss need to use two hearing aids, it is not unheard of for the cost to exceed $10,000.
Many factors contribute to the large number of people with hearing loss who do not use hearing aids. Discomfort, poor performance, stigma, and cost are among the most significant barriers for individuals with hearing loss.