As mentioned in the previous article, this series of 13 articles aims to answer all the questions our clients and Internet users have about hearing aids. These questions are grouped into 13 major themes ; this article deals with the first of them : What is the benefit of a hearing aid ?
Each article deals with a different theme, which groups together a set of questions. The grammatical structure of the questions asked, which is sometimes surprising, is reproduced as the questions are asked to us or as they appear on search engines.
To navigate through the different themes, you can go back to the previous article – which provides a summary of the 13 themes.
Why wear a hearing aid ?
The role of a hearing aid is to allow the wearer to hear better, so there is only one reason to wear a hearing aid : you do not hear or, over time, you hear less well and have difficulty understanding conversations in certain environments (such as noisy environments for example) or on certain media (television, radio, telephone).
Why wear a hearing aid for hearing impairment / deafness ?
People who do not hear or hear very badly (severe or profound deafness, higher than 90dB), concerned by a hearing handicap (some 700 000 French people) are equipped for 90% of them : when the hearing handicap is equipable, it is equipped. In the case of these people, wearing a hearing aid allows them to socialize and acquire language. In addition to their hearing aid, these people generally practice sign language and, eventually, lip reading. The cost of hearing aids for people with disabilities is excellent and the remaining expenses are practically zero.
Why wear a hearing aid in the case of presbycusis ?
People who, with time, hear less well and/or complain of misunderstanding conversations in certain situations are affected by what is called presbycusis : presbycusis is the loss of hearing due to age, it affects 6 million French people and, in general, concerns everyone – men and women – over 60. Contrary to people with a hearing handicap, people with presbycusis have a very low rate of hearing aids : only 1 in 4 is fitted with a hearing aid and, among those who are fitted, it is considered that 15% to 20% of them do not wear their hearing aid. Thus, as a general rule, the question “Why wear a hearing aid ?” is asked by people with presbycusis, while those with a hearing handicap are fully aware of the role of hearing aids : to live a “normal” life and to be able to socialize.
Why are people with presbycusis less aware of this ?
Because their hearing loss, which appears progressively, is a “simple annoyance “ (according to them) or a discomfort (as opposed to a handicap). In the beginning (primo-presbycusis) they are not even aware of this discomfort. It is by having their entourage (personal, professional) repeat themselves and having to make an effort to understand the words that, little by little, they become aware of the decrease in their hearing acuity. For these people, wearing a hearing aid allows them to regain their daily hearing comfort and avoid the risks of progressive isolation. However, for a long time they remain in denial (“I can’t hear my wife because she talks to me when the television is on”). As a general rule, presbyacusics tend to reject hearing aids as too expensive, unsightly or complex for “their simple discomfort”.
In conclusion, why wear a hearing aid ?
In the case of hearing handicap, as we have said, wearing a hearing aid allows one to live a normal life, to socialize, to acquire language. In the case of presbycusis, wearing a hearing aid allows you to regain hearing comfort, to stop making others repeat themselves, to avoid increased fatigue at the end of the day as well as progressive isolation, in the long run. Indeed, very often, when a person hears poorly, he or she turns away, “cuts off” from the conversation and isolates himself or herself. This behavior, if repeated over the long term, can lead to a withdrawal that is accompanied by the risk of depression, reduced brain stimulation and, in its most serious form, cognitive decline, which in turn, in a vicious circle, increases hearing loss (and can promote the onset of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer).
Thus, wearing a hearing aid improves the quality of life of people who need it, whether they have a hearing disability or presbycusis.
What are the benefits of a hearing aid ?
We have included this (recurring) question in the theme “What is the benefit of wearing a hearing aid ?” because it refers to this theme and, although elements of the answer have been mentioned previously, it allows for a global understanding of this theme. We exclude from this reflection people with a hearing handicap for the reasons mentioned above : they are fully aware of the usefulness of their hearing aid, without which language acquisition, socialization and normal life would not have been possible ; we intend this answer for people with presbycusis who, in fact and for the reasons mentioned above, are the only ones to question the validity of such a device.
Wearing a hearing aid has a positive impact on professional life
According to a study by Opinion Way for CD&B, 36% of employees now work in open spaces and 24% of them feel that their work environment has deteriorated over the past 5 years. While it is true that open space has the advantage of reinforcing team spirit and corporate culture through informal communication, it also means working in constant noise : regardless of their age, 4 out of 5 employees consider that the noise of the work environment prevents them from concentrating. According to France Info, every day, 86 minutes of work are lost among open-space employees because of the numerous interactions linked to noise. Noise, the main obstacle to concentration and productivity, is considered a source of fatigue and headaches for 8 out of 10 employees surveyed. And, for the same proportion of respondents, it causes difficulties in understanding speech, which alters efficiency at work, hearing problems and tinnitus. These observations are present in young people (today, one third of people under 30 have a hearing loss of more than 20dB) and in older people : the decrease in hearing acuity, linked to noise or increased by it, is the first factor impacting the well-being of employees and generates additional fatigue at the end of the day, due to the cognitive effort made to understand conversations. These situations are also found in the context of professional meetings, where exchanges cross paths to the detriment of their proper understanding by certain stakeholders. It is therefore not surprising to learn – on the one hand – that many companies are now seeking to rethink the open space by implementing acoustic treatments against noise and – on the other hand – that 91% of people who use a hearing aid say that their devices are useful in their work . By allowing better understanding of voices and conversations while reducing ambient noise, the hearing aid reduces the cognitive effort required, allows immediate comfort and avoids fatigue and headaches at the end of the day.
Wearing a hearing aid has a positive impact on personal life
Repeating what has just been said, often to the point of annoyance – for the person repeating as well as for the person who has someone else repeat it – seems to be common to many households and for good reason : presbycusis spares no one. It should also be noted that presbycusis is a loss of hearing in the high frequencies, the frequencies that carry the voices of women and children : as a result, men are more bothered by this pathology than women. In order to avoid conflicts with the people around them, it is not uncommon for those affected to turn away from conversation or even from their circle of friends and withdraw into themselves : good hearing is the key to a fulfilling social life. Numerous studies show interesting figures, which demonstrate that wearing a hearing aid has many positive effects on social and personal life :
- 78% of hearing aid wearers report an improvement in socializing with their friends or in social activities with their friends ;
- 37% of people fitted with hearing aids say that they enjoy playing sports more now that they are more comfortable ;
- 66% of hearing aid users are happy to be able to hear the sounds of nature again ;
- 83% of hearing aid wearers say that their quality of life has improved since they received their hearing aid.
Wearing a hearing aid has a positive impact on your health
And yes ! The hearing system is complex, but the important thing to remember here is that sound stimuli involve several brain areas and are necessary for their proper functioning. Thus, when hearing decreases, these stimuli become insufficient, which leads to changes in the brain structure :
- The white matter is altered, the number of neuron branches is reduced, resulting in less communication between them ;
- The volume of the cerebral cortex is reduced.
As a result, the cognitive load for hearing becomes heavier, which leads to a “fatigue” of the brain, reducing the attention and the cognitive resources available for other tasks. This fatigue leads to a progressive isolation of the individual, which – in a vicious circle – reinforces the previous pattern (decrease of external stimuli). At the same time, progressive isolation increases the risk of depression, dementia and cognitive decline :
- People with hearing loss are 24% more likely to suffer a decline in cognitive skills such as concentration, memory, and planning ability ;
- Hearing loss is linked to a 3-fold increased risk of dementia ;
- Three out of four people with dementia also have hearing loss.
Wearing a hearing aid and having a fulfilling social life are therefore fundamental to maintaining sufficient cortical stimulation and staying fit !
When to wear a hearing aid ?
There are two possible levels of answers to this question : (1) when (at what level of hearing discomfort) should a hearing aid be worn and (2) in what situations should a hearing aid be worn. Our answers below.
It is recommended to wear a hearing aid at the first sign of hearing discomfort.
Wearing a hearing aid is recommended at the first sign of hearing loss (primary presbycusis) for one simple reason : if the individual loses the habit of hearing certain sounds or insidiously cuts himself off from social interactions, it will be difficult for him to accept the hearing aid because the amplification of forgotten sounds may seem unpleasant (close to sound aggression). It is important, as soon as the hearing discomfort is there, to get into the habit, even for a short time, of wearing a hearing aid. This allows to keep a satisfactory cortical stimulation on the one hand and, on the other hand, to get used to the device, to its amplification as well as to its wearing (in the ear canal or on the ear). Thus, there will be no transition to a hearing aid, but rather a progressive habituation to it, which guarantees a better acceptance.
It is advisable to wear a hearing aid as soon as the situation requires it.
In fact, in the case of primary presbycusis, the need may be occasional: in a restaurant, in front of the television, in the workplace, during a professional meeting, for example. As soon as the person has difficulty understanding a conversation or experiences hearing difficulties in a situation, it is essential that he or she wears a hearing aid, as this will allow him or her to get used to it gradually and to see the benefits immediately. The comfort provided by the hearing aid and the gradual habituation of the user to the device will naturally lead to a longer wearing period, from a few hours to the whole day if the need arises. On the other hand, we would like to point out that there is no point in wearing a hearing aid at night: the hearing aid must be turned off (or charged, in the case of rechargeable devices) and stored in its box.
To go further on this topic, you can consult our previous articles :
- The auditory brain, close correlation between hearing and cognition
- Hearing, cognitive abilities and music therapy
- What is presbycusis ?
- Tinnitus, what is it ?
- Indication of hearing aids according to the type of deafness
- The consequences of noise on the body and health
- Noise pollution and hearing risks
To consult the rest of the answers to your questions, return to the summary of this special hearing file.
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