What You Need to Understand About Your Hearing — a Letter from Maria Brown
Maria Brown started her clinic, Maria Brown Hearing Clinic, 14 years ago in Hobart, Tasmania with the help of her family. She is a qualified Audiometrist with 20+ years of industry experience passionate about helping Tasmanians reconnect with their families.
At this point in time, we have 26% of people that have recognised they have a hearing loss and have found a solution. 74% of people with a hearing loss have chosen through stories of all descriptions that they will not do anything. "If you can't see you get glasses, but if you can’t hear, why won’t you get hearing aids? This has always been a major issue for me.
It takes 9 years for someone - after they are told that they need hearing aids - to only maybe do something about it.
What makes people ignore this in such great numbers?
People don’t want to admit they can't hear.
Common statements I hear:
- "If they didn’t mumble at me then I wouldn’t have a problem"
- "Hearing aids will make me look old"
- "My friends got hearing aids and they're unhappy"
- "I have been told they don’t work"
The sad part is that gets you absolutely nowhere.
Not hearing your family or friends isolates you from the world.
My husband used to sit at the table and not speak for years. He couldn’t keep up with the conversation. My children quickly worked out Dad couldn’t hear and addressed everything to me.
He felt as though no one listened to him.
In social situations, he would be yelling at people, talking over the top of them, because he couldn’t hear that they had started a conversation.
Everywhere we went I was shocked by how loud he was and how awkward it made people feel.
The TV was so loud (deafening) in the room no one could sleep of a night time, and the kids were constantly complaining.
I begged him to let me fit him with hearing aids. When I did it has changed his entire persona completely.
The whole time he was in denial and aggressive towards us, because how dare we pick on him.
He now wears hearing aids and there are no more issues at all!
It is very obvious to those people around their loved ones that they don’t hear.
I have husbands and wives come in and start wars in my office. They refuse to believe they have a problem. The wives or husbands beg their loved one to listen and see sense.
I have grandparents that have been banned from having their grandchildren because they can't hear them.
There are tears and accusations and they still won't get hearing aids.
I pull my hair out from the sheer frustration because I want to help these people.
It makes no difference. You still can't hear properly. Fighting doesn’t change the fact that YOU can't hear.
Why do we prescribe hearing aids?
The scary part is that the attitudes surrounding hearing aids overwhelm this fact:
You can actually end up with dementia from not being able to hear.
A high percentage of people do nothing about their hearing loss and cannot understand what people are actually saying to them.
Unfortunately, they can’t communicate anymore because they can't hear.
People aren’t mumbling at you, your brain is not understanding what they are saying.
Hearing aids are not a miracle; we can only work with what we have got left of your hearing.
Seeing a specialist when your hearing is severe to profound is a huge risk with your life of hearing. Our ears have to last for a lifetime, not just for 60 years.
From the time, we are born we learn our understanding of speech.
By 4 years of age, we know 50% of what we will learn in our lifetime.
By the time we are 60, it has been a long time since we heard certain sounds at the right level for our brain to understand them.
Predominantly this is the soft sounds, high-frequency sounds. S, th, ch, t, f and are our sounds that do not get louder no matter how hard we try.
The brain needs sound pressure to be quickened up to provide these sounds faster so that the soft sounds reach your brain at the right rate again.
This is why the government hearing aids that are free fail for a high percentage of people.
These hearing aids can’t get the soft sounds to the brain faster as they are basic amplifiers.
The difference between good hearing aids and basic amplifiers is how fast we get the message to the brain.
In a hearing aid, there is a prescription that applies sound pressure to the inner ear that then sends the message to the brain faster.
In a good hearing aid, it will work on each frequency of your hearing that is declining, giving you the sounds you want and helping you with the sounds you don’t want.
With basic amplification, it does not choose between the sounds that you are hearing they are all just louder.
This is why they fail in background noise and the main reason people come to me is that socially they can't hear first.
As your hearing deteriorates the TV, conversations at home, people walking away from you all become very difficult.
Just when you get to the stage where you go travelling and go out a lot because you have the time and the funds to do that, your hearing doesn’t enable you to have a great time like you expected.
This is the indignity of it all.
The hardest part is our best hearing is at 18.
Many people ignore this until they are in their 60’s and have been not hearing for 20 years.
Hearing loss is gradual and is not as obvious immediately when you are younger. Small things are an issue then it becomes a much bigger problem.
What's the solution?
You need to trial hearing aids.
I understand the stories.
I understand the fear.
At the end of the day, it's all completely cost-free and risk-free to you.
Unless you try them for yourself and see if they actually work for you, then you are being scared off by just stories. This is sheep-like behaviour.
Just because your "friend says", are you prepared for you to not be able to hear your grandchildren, have fun with your friends, and sit at home because you can’t hear?
The number of times I have heard loved ones tell me things like:
- "we don’t even go out anymore."
- "We haven’t been out to tea for years as he/she can’t hear."
- "I don’t want to stay home."
My clients tell me the most wonderful stories of how they can hear when they go out with hearing aids.
Don’t get me wrong—some situations are overwhelming. I won't lie about hearing aids in a situation where there are 100 people yelling and having fun where even normal hearing doesn’t cope.
Hearing aids have changed—we have amazing technology now. We can help you hear in nearly all situations.
The confusing part about hearing aids isn't "Will they help me hear?" It's "Why do they cost so much?".
With these advancements in technology comes a price tag that is higher than some people can afford. This is perplexing in our industry and hopefully, soon we can see the trend to cheaper not more expensive devices.
We can all only pray for this, as the manufacturers and expensive hearing clinics have had it all their own way for a very long time.
The cost of care is higher than most people expect and you need to shop around to make sure you are not being over-charged for your hearing aids.
This is the best advice I can give at this stage of our technological developments.