By Peter Slobin, M.Sc.
How do we inspire someone with a hearing loss to get help?
As a hearing care professional, I often ask myself this question. It’s been estimated that only about one in three people who need hearing aids today actually get them. Sadly, for many people, good hearing health is not a high priority.
Companies that manufacture hearing aids do their best to promote the benefits and technological advances of the devices they produce, and most of us in the field promote good hearing on our websites and through advertising. However, it’s not easy to sell people on good hearing health and hearing aids because of misinformation, financial considerations, stigma and difficulty accepting hearing loss.
I believe that if people understood why they should take action to help themselves, these barriers to good hearing healthcare could be removed—sometimes a slight change in perception is all that’s needed.
My passion about inspiring people with hearing loss to get help led me to write a book called Thinking About Hearing Aids? Ten Great Reasons to Take the Leap to Better Hearing. The book is 62 pages—long enough to communicate the essentials, but short enough to make it easy to read quickly. In my audiology practice, I distribute the book to people who inquire about hearing aids and to my clients who want their friends or family with hearing loss to read the book. I also distribute the book to physicians’ offices and other locations where the book will be helpful.
The book is meant to convincingly show people that hearing aids are worth pursuing because they significantly enhance quality of life and health. Hearing aids provide people who wear them with several types of benefits—from enhancing relationships, to increasing confidence, to connection with the world around them. In addition, this book is for families of people with a hearing loss, who are also very much affected.
I wrote this book for a number of reasons: First, I enjoyed taking the most relevant information available, along with the most significant experiences I’ve had with clients, and presenting these in a simple, concise, inspirational, and entertaining way. I wanted this book to make a difference in the lives of those with hearing loss, by alleviating their fears and showing them the multiple benefits of hearing aids, beyond the obvious.
Second, I wanted to educate the public, since most people do not have a true picture of hearing technology and don’t realize how much hearing care professionals can do to help.
Finally, I wanted to inspire people and show them that they are not alone. I wrote about the experiences of some of the people I have helped with hearing aids; I also presented a list of well-known personalities who have been fitted with hearing aids, as I see them as role models for others.
I wanted the book to hold people’s attention and to be straightforward enough so they could finish reading it in one or two sittings. So, together with my editor, Sherry Hinman, I endeavored to make the writing approachable and engaging. Interspersed throughout the text are quotes about one of our greatest and most admired faculties—something we should all strive to improve—the ability to listen. Listening, I believe, is the highest goal of good hearing.
Hearing care professionals have a special purpose—to make a difference by bringing more joy into the lives of people with hearing loss.
I used images throughout the book to keep people engaged in a playful manner, and it was a great experience to meet with the cartoonist Ted Couling at a local Starbucks to discuss the cartoons and illustrations he created for the book.
In addition to their entertainment value, cartoons can be a powerful way to address uncomfortable issues and bring new awareness. They can move through barriers and help create change. Coming to terms with hearing loss is often difficult, and can take years. It was my hope that the cartoons would not only entertain, but also help people lovingly laugh at themselves as they identify with the characters who have a hearing loss. In this way, humor is used as a vehicle to inspire people with hearing loss to help themselves by seeking out solutions.
As a profession, we need to keep spreading the word about how life-enhancing hearing solutions can be. Thanks to manufacturer research and development, technology is always improving, allowing us to provide constantly improving solutions for hearing loss, year after year.
I hope this book inspires hearing care professionals to continue to express to the public what is best about our profession and the services we provide.
Peter Slobin, M.Sc., is an audiologist and the owner of Southwest Hearing Clinic in Surrey, B.C. Hearing care professionals can order a free copy of Thinking About Hearing Aids? at ThinkingAboutHearingAids.com.
I started my clinical life fitting and dispensing hearing aids (at Walter Reed in the early 1970s, one of the few places an audiologist could do such and not incur the wrath of ASHA), Over the years I have moved away from trying to get those with hearing impairment into a a hearing-health environment, which I still do, to trying to get those without hearing loss into a healthy hearing environment.
Thank you for your comments. You make an important point about the equally important role of hearing professionals in the prevention of hearing loss. The practice of preventive hearing care, from conception to our senior years, is equally important to rehabilitative hearing care. So many fewer people would need to be inspired to get help for their hearing through hearing aids and assistive technology if environments were quieter, ear protection optimized and people were educated and inspired from primary school onwards to take care of their hearing. Research is gradually leading us to other ways that audiologists may be able to help prevent hearing loss in the future. I am sure many of us wonder what the next great leap in the area of hearing loss will be – advanced discoveries allowing us to treat hearing loss or advanced discoveries allowing us to prevent hearing loss.
Thank you for the article. Unfortunately, until hearing aids are covered by healthcare or other financial means, many people with hearing loss simply can’t afford them. It isn’t a matter of not wanting, or being poorly educated, or the stigma. These people suffer with loss of communication, lack of confidence and all that you mention simply because the cost of good aids are prohibitive to many people. If hearing professionals truly want to help, find a way for the technology to be affordable, or covered by insurance.
Thank you for your comments. I agree with you that many people cannot afford hearing aids and therefore do not pursue hearing aids because of their financial situation. Yes, it would be very helpful if there was better insurance or government coverage for hearing aids. The amount of coverage seems to vary from location to location. Here in British Columbia there isn’t even coverage for hearing assessments.
It is unfortunate, but the inability to afford hearing aids probably results in approximately 10% of the population not pursuing hearing aids. There are countries in Europe where hearing aid expenses are covered, and yet the number of people fitted with hearing aids is only about 10% more than it is in North America. This supports your comments about affordability and also supports the huge impact of factors such as stigma, acceptance of hearing loss and misinformation impacting the number of people who pursue help for their hearing loss.
For those who find it difficult, if not impossible, to afford hearing aids they should confirm that they for sure do not have coverage. Here in British CoIumbia, I often see people who are not aware that they are covered by a third party or that they could qualify for assistance if their income is very low.
In addition, some people may not be aware that hearing care professionals can offer good quality products at a variety of price points. Many providers can further help out with a payment plan.
You make a very valid point about the difficulty that many people have affording hearing aids and thank you for your comments.
Hi, I’d like to get a digital copy of your book if possible.
What many folks don’t realize is that Lions Club organizations, known for our campaigns to help the blind and those at risk of sight loss, also have a program called Ear of the Lion, which can provide people who have financial burdens to get new hearing aids. Please let your followers know that they only need contact their local Lions Club. Lions are a philanthropic organization and one would not be pressured to join Lions to get consideration of this help!