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Can You Hear Me Now?

 

As a young child living in my grandparents' home I can remember them shouting at each other. They were rarely angry, and even when they were, they never shouted – those conversations were had with a whisper behind closed doors. This shouting was because they couldn't hear one another.

My grandmother would shout from the kitchen (a mere 40 feet away), "Father! Dinner will be ready soon!"

My grandfather would reply, "The girls are already in their bedroom!"

"Not the girls, Father, dinner!"

"Why are we having dinner in the girls' room?"

I don't think my grandfather ever broke down and bought hearing aids. He never thought he needed them since he did most of the talking anyway. My grandfather was a proud, manly man who grew up ranching and riding horses. Years after his death, I can still imagine him saying that hearing aids are for sissies.

My grandmother, however, found that her decreased hearing was causing issues. She was becoming less and less social. She didn't like going to Bingo and other activities because she couldn't hear. She even stopped using the phone – one of her favorite evening pastimes.

My grandmother also enjoys appearances; she schedules weekly hair appointments and bi-weekly manicures. Hearing aids aren't anything she ever hoped to add to her wardrobe, but vanity aside, she knew she was missing out on things because of her hearing. And even though hearing aids were for old people, she finally broke down and decided that at a certain age, there is no hiding that you are indeed old.

Her new hearings aids were at first a welcomed change. We would no longer hear the television before we even opened the door. We no longer had to yell for her to hear us sitting just a few feet away. She happily joined conversations rather than sitting by pretending to hear.

These little miracle devices in her ears were fantastic, but they also came with some down sides that have not only irritated my grandmother, but keeps many seniors from getting them at all.

First and foremost, there is the cost. Hearing aids can be incredibly expensive, and they aren't typically covered by Medicare. For seniors living on a tight budget, this alone can keep them from getting the device they need to properly hear.

Check with your provider to know exactly what is and isn't covered, and ask your audiologist if they offer payment plans to help.

Comfort and fit is another concern. My grandmother would struggle to get her hearing aids in properly, and then she would constantly be poking at her ear to make sure they were still there. At one point, a hearing aid fell out and landed in her bowl of honey roasted peanuts. A few days later, she had to get a replacement for the chewed hearing aid, and was making a dentist appointment for the damaged tooth

Try several different styles to find the right fit. You want to make sure your new, expensive ears will comfortably fit, and not be relegated to a dresser drawer.

Batteries can be another pain point with hearing aids. Not only are they pricey, but they are so little. If you consider how small the device is, imagine how small the battery that must fit inside has to be. Now try to wrangle that teeny, tiny disc into your teeny, tiny hearing aid. Every time I visit my grandmother, I can bet on seeing one or two little batteries at the foot of her chair. My family made a game of counting how many battery tabs we saw from her apartment to the elevator. In a community where hearing aids outnumber bath aids, you can bet there are quite a few.

The easiest solution is to ask someone else to replace the batteries for you. Perhaps a friend always visits on Saturday, or a caregiver restocks meds on Sundays. Both would surely be happy to help if asked. Don't be afraid to ask for help.

Being able to hear the world around you is such an important part of living life to its fullest. Imagine not being able to hear your grandchildren sing a song or laugh. And on a more serious note, addressing your hearing loss sooner rather than later can help ward off social isolation and even dementia. Don't wait until your hearing loss becomes a major roadblock; see an audiologist when you first notice your hearing isn't what it once was. It could be the difference between having dinner soon and eating in the bedroom.

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Thoughts and stories from others
  1. August 2, 2012 at 5:33 pm | Posted by Cynthia

    What a great post! My parents are now getting close to that stage and some of the conversation are classic. One thing to note about the batteries, they can be a huge danger to visiting grandchildren ... not for choking, but for the very fast and serious internal injuries that come if are swallowed. The web site below has some safety tips. http://thebatterycontrolled.com/

    Reply

  2. July 15, 2012 at 12:24 pm | Posted by Despr8caregiver

    A very important addendum to your excellent post would be that ANY honorably discharged veteran is eligible for FREE hearing aids from the VA whether or not the hearing loss is service connected. You can read more about our experience with the VA at http://www.desperatecaregivers.com/the-department-of-veterans-affairs-and-me Carol Inside Aging Parent Care

    Reply

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