No More Suffering in Silence? Julia Calderone, Consumer Reports, has written a thoughtful piece about hearing loss and the toll it takes on those who suffer from it. Calderone states that hearing loss “has long been thought of as an inevitable part of getting older, more a nuisance than a life-altering medical condition—at least by those not experiencing it.” But that opinion is changing, she asserts, as “the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) and the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) have published reports calling untreated hearing loss a significant national health concern, one that’s associated with other serious health problems, including depression and a decline in memory and concentration.”
Calderone not only treats hearing loss with the seriousness it deserves, she offers solutions to sufferers, particularly those who can’t afford to buy hearing aids, which “cost an average of $4,700 per pair in 2013.” This is a very steep price, particularly since hearing aids are usually not covered by health insurance or Medicare. To help with those who need hearing aids but can’t afford them, Calderone reviews a handful of hearing aid alternatives, namely personal sound amplification products (PSAPs), to see if they can fill the gap for those who need hearing aids but can’t afford to buy them.
Two PSAPs not covered in Calderone’s review are also worth considering: Doppler Labs HERE One and Nuheara’s IQbuds. Neither company markets their PSAPs as a hearing aid or hearing aid substitute, but at around $300 a pair they offer personal amplification and soundscape management to people who might have no other options.
And a final thought about the sorry state of hearing health in the U.S.: For people who are suffering noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL), the personal and economic costs could have been avoided in the first place because NIHL is 100% preventable. Meanwhile, prevention of hearing loss costs almost nothing–avoid loud noise exposure and use earplugs or earmuffs if you can’t. Studies done in the 1960s in primitive tribes in the Sudan and the Kalahari Desert showed that without exposure to loud noise, exceptional hearing is preserved well into old age. And having well-preserved natural hearing is much better than the best hearing aid or personal sound amplification device.