Mild to moderate hearing loss: Invest in hearing aids?

March 9, 2016 by Jonathan Gagnon

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The results of your father’s recent hearing test are plain as day: he has severe hearing loss and will need hearing aids. In this case, the decision to invest in hearing aids is quite easy.

But it’s not as clear for a person with mild to moderate hearing loss. Could I wait a few more years before making the adjustment? Do I really have to break my piggy bank? Unfortunately, there is no single answer to this question, as numerous factors must be considered.

Children

Parents of preschool- or school-age children with hearing loss often ask if, aside from the fact that hearing aids will eliminate their children’s discomfort, the hearing loss is “serious” enough to justify hearing aids.

Here is what I tell these parents:

First, it is false that children with hearing loss experience discomfort. For them, hearing is what it is. Plus, kids’ exceptional adaptability means they will get used to their hearing aids in no time.

Second, child development specialists agree that there are critical periods for language development. Once these specific periods (which last a few months to a few years) are over, it becomes difficult, if not impossible, for children to learn how to properly use the various sounds and grammar that make up language.

Knowing that, and to give children every chance of developing to their full potential, we must ensure that the brain areas associated with language are stimulated and that all sounds get to the brain, from as early an age as possible.

In short, and for the sake of their development, it is never too soon to fit children with hearing aids!

Adults

There is no straight answer for adults. The daily hearing needs of someone with mild to moderate hearing loss must first be established. If you want to know what “it feels like,” put foam earplugs into your ears. There you go: you now have mild hearing loss! You can still hear, but not as well, and some sound differences can be confusing.

Hearing loss, however mild, can be very annoying for people who work every day in noisy environments like restaurants, factories, public transportation, or day care centres. They must be very creative to catch and interpret the voice messages and sound stimuli they are exposed to. For them, investing in hearing aids seems like the logical choice.

In contrast and for a similar degree of hearing loss, retired homebodies who spend most of their time gardening and reading won’t experience the same degree of annoyance. They might decide to wait until their hearing loss is more serious, or rather decide to get fitted with hearing aids now so they can go on with their social life and clearly understand their grandkids.

In the end, a number of factors will influence the decision to buy hearing aids, but the two most important are, without question, the hard-of-hearing person’s level of discomfort and the possible impact on a child’s language development and learning.

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