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by Jan L. Mayes, MSc, Audiologist

When it comes to people getting hearing aids or not, a recent viewpoint article in JAMA Otolaryngology identifies that cost is not the only barrier. While lower prices or low cost options mean more people can afford hearing aids, it doesn’t mean people will buy them.

In countries where hearing aids are provided free under national healthcare systems, eligible people who went ahead with hearing aids ranged from 11% to 37%. Reasons why are complex, and range from personality traits to shame or embarrassment. This is a big concern when people with unaided hearing loss have higher risk of related health problems, including dementia.

Negative public opinion about hearing aids is part of the problem. People in general perceive hearing aids as a negative instead of recognizing the social and health benefits of using hearing aids for hearing loss. As an audiologist, I know these include easier speech communication in different listening situations, less social isolation, and better mental and cognitive health than found in people with hearing loss who don’t use hearing aids.

The viewpoint authors recommend more public education to “neutralize public opinion of hearing aids.” It should include that hearing aids are a proven beneficial treatment for people with hearing loss like glasses or contacts are for people with vision loss.

Hearing aids aren’t perfect. But that’s no reason to generally criticize hearing aids or judge people negatively for wearing them. And no one should have to feel shame, embarrassment, or social rejection because they wear hearing aids and public opinion is against them.

As always, hearing preservation is preferred to hearing aids. Protect your hearing from harmful noise and sound exposures. Turn down the volume. Use hearing protection when needed. Support efforts to make our world a quieter place.

Jan L. Mayes is an international Eric Hoffer Award winning author in Non-Fiction Health. She is also a science enthusiast and newly retired audiologist still specializing in noise, tinnitus-hyperacusis, and hearing health. You can read more of Jan’s work at her site, www.janlmayes.com.