Not long from now, it will be Christmas, which can bring plenty of familiar sights – and sounds. Whether it is carol singing, the bang of crackers being pulled, the chatter of excited children, or even the familiar strains of Slade’s Merry Christmas Everybody (which turns 50 this year), there is much to enjoy.
However, for some, and perhaps for yourself, those sounds seem somewhat diminished. If your hearing is not quite what it was, you may want to do something about it but be put off by the sense of stigma some feel about hearing loss, a feeling that can be more powerful if a hearing aid is the solution.
This was highlighted by broadcaster and former doctor Michael Mosley, who recently told the Guardian the importance of getting hearing checked and being willing to wear a hearing aid if necessary. He remarked: “Hearing change is completely normal and is nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed about.”
Dr Moseley noted that many people are not aware they can get free tests, but one of the big issues is undoubtedly the feeling of stigma at the thought of wearing hearing aids, as people can think of them as “big and clunky”. He added: “There’s a feeling that hearing aids are an obvious sign of being old and decrepit.”
This is not how folk should think, he added, commenting that people wear glasses at any age because their sight is impaired, so they should feel no differently about hearing aids.
As the article went on to note, the old stereotype of hearing aids being large and unsightly items is outdated. Indeed, invisible hearing aids can help people to enjoy better hearing while almost nobody knows they even have them in.
If that isn’t reason enough to ditch the stigma, it is vital to consider the wider implications of hearing loss. It is not just that it impacts on your communication and social interactions; hearing loss is linked to cognitive decline, so a hearing aid, however visible (or not) can have far wider benefits for your quality of life.
Another area where having a hearing aid can help is with balance. It is well known that the ear has a lot to do with this, which is why vertigo sufferers can often find their condition is caused by an inner ear problem such as Labyrinthitis or Meniere’s Disease.
Now, research at the University of Colorado has shown that older people who wear hearing aids suffer two-and-a-half times fewer falls than those who do not, indicating a clear link between enhanced hearing and better balance even in later life.
If wearing a hearing aid might be seen as a little embarrassing by some, the feeling of helplessness at suffering falls and needing to be helped up – or treated for injuries sustained in the incident – is surely worse.
So while you may feel a certain stigma about getting a hearing test or having a hearing aid fitted if you need it, the truth is that having one might be a crucial factor in enabling you to live life to the full, both now and way into old age.