Treat Hearing Loss Like Any Other Aging Problem
By Liz Taylor | Aging Deliberately
Editor: Would people who lose their hearing as they age treat the problem differently if it were treated like any other aging problem? Would that be a good thing? Here’s Liz Taylor, a syndicated columnist for the Kitsap Sun, with her thoughts on the topic. And be sure to read about the Lion’s AUDIENT program towards the end of the article, especially if you or someone you know needs help purchasing hearing aids!
This article is republished with Liz’s kind permission.
As most of us can attest, our senses change as we get older. Precisely on schedule (my 46th birthday, as I’d been warned), I needed reading glasses. Identifying odors gets harder with age. Salty or bitter tastes are more difficult to detect.
But the hardest-hitting loss is our hearing. More than half of people aged 60 and over are hard of hearing or deaf, and many have trouble acknowledging it. A stigma exists that doesn’t with other sensory changes.
“We don’t treat hearing loss as a human condition,” says Paul Sass, General Manager of Costco’s Hearing Center in Issaquah, “but a handicap. We need to educate people to accept help, just like they do eyeglasses.”
The average person who buys a hearing aid waits at least five years. The longer hearing loss goes untreated, says Sass, the harder it is to retrain the brain to recognize sound.
“The brain needs time to recognize these new sounds and categorize them, whic- then allows you to respond appropriately. New hearing aids can involve several months and office visits for this ‘train the brain’ process to take place.”
Untreated hearing loss can have serious consequences. Misunderstandings with friends and coworkers (especially women and children, whose high-pitched voices stop being heard first), increased isolation, family problems – it’s plain irritating to be asked, “huh?” several times in ordinary conversation – as well as falls and broken hips due to poor balance.
Besides stigma, however, the biggest barrier to fixing the problem is cost. A pair of digital hearing aids typically runs $4,500 to $5,500. Uncovered by most insurance and Medicare, this fee can be out of reach for many.
Now, there’s good news. The Northwest Lions Foundation for Sight & Hearing in Seattle – the largest cornea transplant center in the United States and provider of donated hearing aids and other services for over 40 years – has launched a non-profit program to address this need.
Called AUDIENT Alliance for Accessible Hearing Care, the program provides access to deeply discounted digital, behind-the-ear hearing aids to people (of any age) whose income is above the government’s established poverty line, but below the normal standard of affordability.
Translation, if you have $23,500 or less in income per year, you qualify (assets are counted only as they contribute toward your income). To begin, you fill out an easy form with proof of income and mail to the AUDIENT office. In 48 hours, someone will call to arrange a referral to a participating hearing aid provider near you. That’s it.
The total cost to you – for two digital hearing aids – is up to $1,040 and includes the fitting fee, ear mold, and three adjustments during a one year limited warranty period (testing fees are paid to the provider). In addition, AUDIENT can arrange low-interest financing.
The service is available nationwide because one of AUDIENT’s partners, EPIC, identifies and screens qualified experts in hearing evaluations and treatments throughout the country. The fee is reduced because all of the alliance’s partners, including those who test and fit you with a device, have generously agreed to discount their products and services to participate.
For more information, call toll-free (877) AUDIENT or (206) 838-7194, or you can go online to http://www.audientalliance.org.