Turn Down Your iPod and Get a Hearing Aid (You Probably Need It!)

Hearing aidsHave you heard? A large, new nationwide study has found that about one out of every five Americans -- nearly 20 percent of the U.S. population -- suffers from hearing loss in one or both ears.

That startlingly high number is more than twice as many as was previously estimated. But what's really shocking is how few of us actually treat the loss.

Honestly, why aren't hearing aids almost as common as eyeglasses?

It really makes no sense at all. We as a society think nothing of making a fashion statement with funky, chunky eyeglasses and feel no shame in admitting we wear contacts or have had corrective eye surgery -- but hearing aids still carry a huge stigma in this country.

If you need proof of that stigma, just ask Elmer and Irene Grosz, an elderly Colorado couple who were just kicked out of church because the noise from their hearing aids was "a distraction." I mean, really!

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Why? Why is it cool to walk around with buds for our portable music players and smartphones in our ears but considered ridiculously old-personish to wear a hearing aid? Isn't it far more embarrassing to miss whole chunks of conversations, smiling and nodding to cover for a condition that could be easily dealt with?

Think of it this way: We would never let our children suffer with hearing loss without taking action. Yet we ourselves are willing to live with it purely out of totally misplaced shame. That's silly.

Of course, if more people wore hearing aids, they would eventually lose their stigma. (And also, they make them pretty low-profile these days -- it's not like you have to walk around with a giant ear trumpet or anything.)

But there's another thing holding people back: Hearing aids are expensive. They can cost thousands of dollars apiece. And -- get this -- most insurance plans don't really cover the cost. If more people wore them and demanded coverage, it's easy to imagine that this would change.

Let's hope people hear the implications of this study loud and clear -- and that far more of us make sure to get the help we need.

If you found out you had a hearing loss, would you wear a hearing aid?

 

Image via ikesters/Flickr

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