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Whadja say? Why People Don't Wear Their Hearing Aids (And What to Do)

Why do people who can't hear refuse hearing aids?

When my mother was diagnosed with cancer, as soon as the doctor left the room she turned to my father and said, "Now will you wear your hearing aid?"

She had liver cancer and was gone within months.

It's a mystery why so many people choose to miss out on birdsong and relaxed conversation. A quarter of adults who own a hearing aid don't regularly wear it, and three-quarters of the adults with impaired hearing don't even own one, according to the trade group, the Better Hearing Institute. Your hearing-challenged companion may not even know why he's left his aid in the drawer, or insists he hears fine.

If a hearing-challenged loved one is driving you crazy, here are some conversations you might begin:

Note the risk of missing warnings like honking horns or urgent knocks on the door. Suggest a hearing exam with an audiologist. An at-home option is uHear, a software test that can be downloaded free to an iphone (http://itunes.com/apps/uhear) if you have the iTunes application installed. Your husband may sometimes think he is hearing when he isn't, or misunderstand what is said.

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If he accuses you of muttering, you might answer that most age related hearing loss occurs in the high-frequency ranges. In English, these tend to contain the consonants, which makes it easy to confuse, say, "bat" with "cat." Besides, people with perfect hearing can often pick up mutterings.

If he says a hearing aid will make him look or feel old, it's possibly acceptable to say that misunderstanding conversations just makes him look senile. Or you might find a nicer way to say that. He might not understand just what he's missing. Over time, people begin to say "Never mind," or avoid conversation or invitations. You might get tough and point out that he's not having as much fun with the grandchildren, or that he's missing out on events you'd like to share. You could point out that he's stressing out the family.

If he owns only one aid and has hearing loss in both ears, suggest buying a second. Two aids may help him to locate the source of a sound, or to hear better in a noisy room.

You might give him this blog.

You could say you don't want to be angry with him.

Or you could accept that he's decided to retreat into an increasingly private world.

To my Dad's great credit, my mother's death shocked him into change. He now wears his hearing aid--nearly all the time.

 

 

 

Temma Ehrenfeld is a New York-based science writer, and former assistant editor at Newsweek.

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