Glenna Crooks

Listen-Up Boomers! While you still can.

If hearing loss was classified as a disability, it would be the largest disability class in the U.S. As Boomers age in great numbers in the coming years, it will grow even larger and not just from aging itself but from Boomer (and generations after) experiences with very loud noises. Rock concerts, anyone? Heavy metal, anyone? Earphones, anyone?

I’m told that when someone has a hearing loss, they’re usually the last to know. That’s been true for my friends.

It’s also been true for my Mom. She lives in another state and when we’d talk on the phone, she’d hang up in mid-conversation. It was not until I asked my brother why she was mad at me that I learned she had a hearing loss and refused to get a hearing aid.

Knowing what mattered most to her, I warned her that she was courting risk. How would she feel, for example, if her lack of responsiveness was mistaken as Alzheimer’s? What if she lost her license after being involved in an accident?

It worked. She got a hearing test the next day.

She’s got a hearing aid now. Visiting her these past holidays, it was clear that the technology – expensive though it may be – is far less developed than I imagined. I thought the quality and user-friendliness (especially for the $6,000 price) would be better.

I also thought Medicare was paying for some of it.

WRONG!

Apparently, Medicare coverage for hearing aids will take an act of Congress. We’d better get started making that happen because the population of seniors is growing and we, they – and everyone’s budgets – will be better off if they can live independently as long as possible.

If you think hearing loss can’t jeopardize independent living, think again.

Social relationships are essential to health, yet people with hearing loss are less likely to participate in social activities. They can feel socially rejected. They can feel lonely, a condition with health effects similar to obesity and hypertension. Their health overall does suffer. They can feel tired, exhausted, have headaches, greater stress and sleeping problems. They are more likely to be irritable, negative, angry, fatigued, tense, stressed and depressed. They are less alert. Their personal safety is at risk. Their memory is impaired. They have a harder time learning new tasks.

If any of this surprises you, imagine having a problem hearing a telephone ring or someone talking when you answer the call. Imagine not being able to carry on a conversation when several people are talking, anyone is whispering or with anyone whose face you can’t see. Imagine not being able to hear when you’re riding in a car or when there is wind or traffic. Imagine not being able to understand your grandchild’s still-garbled words or the accents of someone whose mother tongue is not yours. Imagine not hearing when there is background noise and especially in public places like stores and restaurants. My Mom says she doesn’t enjoy eating out, for just that reason. Imagine not hearing warnings, alarms or car horns and fearing for your safety and security.

Not being able to hear denies a person a sense of security, love and belonging, freedom, engagement with life and fun. Those are essential human needs and lacking them has quality-of-life altering consequences, for certain. Hearing aids help restore someone’s quality-of-life – and they do more, as well. They help prevent a variety of health problems and enable more independent living for seniors.

Current Medicare coverage policy says that hearing aids are elective. I disagree. Hearing aids are no less important to health and independent living than are medications, joint replacements or cardiac stents.

And, about that act of Congress: we’d better get started.

 

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One Response to “Losing Your Hearing? Are You the Last to Know?”

  1. Lisa Says:

    I couldn’t agree more – with everything you said!!!! My elders are living with me, one of which has EXPENSIVE and not very effective hearing aids. I have experienced all that you described. If you start a petition – please send it to me for my signature!

    Lisa

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