Confronting Hearing Aid Stigma and The Cost of Hearing Aids for Seniors

Hearing loss is a common occurrence in people over the age of 60. Learn about the hearing aid stigma, how to deal with it, and ways you can find a hearing aid that suits your needs and budget.
Doctor installing hearing aid into a senior black man's ear

Are you having a harder time hearing what people are saying? Do you feel like you're missing out on conversations with friends and family? You may be experiencing hearing loss. Hearing loss is common in seniors, but it's not something that has to impact your quality of life.

This complete guide from Senior Assistance Club will run you through everything you need to know and more about hearing loss in seniors.

Hearing Loss in Seniors

As we age, our bodies change in many ways. One of those changes is hearing loss in seniors. This is called presbycusis, and it’s a type of hearing loss that happens gradually as we get older.

There are a number of things that can contribute to presbycusis. One is the natural aging process, which causes a deterioration of the tiny hair cells in the inner ear. These hair cells are responsible for converting sound waves into electrical signals that the brain can interpret. Another common cause of presbycusis is exposure to loud noise over time. This can damage the hair cells and make them less effective at doing their job.

Hearing Aid Stigma

One of the challenges that seniors face when it comes to hearing loss is the stigma that’s often associated with wearing a hearing aid. Many people see hearing aids as a sign of weakness or old age, and they’re reluctant to wear them for fear of being seen as “different”.

Fortunately, attitudes are changing, and people are becoming more accepting of hearing aids. In fact, many celebrities and public figures have been open about their own experiences with hearing loss and wearing hearing aids. By breaking down the stigma, we can help seniors feel more comfortable about getting the help they need to improve their quality of life.

What About Your Attitude?

Happy senior couple playing Yahtzee

Many seniors themselves initially feel that getting a hearing aid is a sign of weakness. In talking with neighbors, whether out for a walk or at the grocery store, I hear this a lot.

A 93-year-old, a former Navy captain told me, “I don’t want to give in. I can hear O.K., but my wife keeps nagging me to get checked.”

His wife, active at 91, also confided in me: “I have to repeat myself 3 or 7 times. It’s a drag. I love him. But, he’s so proud that he won’t even get checked. I wish I could turn back the clock.”

Sound remotely familiar?

We may not want to believe it. We may not be able to turn back the clock. But we can take action and explore alternatives. With millions of older adults facing hearing loss, it helps to understand all available options. For many, the common questions fall into three buckets: financial, personal experiences, and aid options.

Let’s start with finances.

Cost of Hearing Aids for Seniors?

Hearing aids can be a big investment, but they can also make a huge difference in your quality of life. So how much do hearing aids cost? The cost of hearing aids for seniors depends on a few factors, including the type of hearing aid you need and the features you want. For example, simple hearing aids that just amplify sound can cost as little as $100, while more sophisticated models with features like noise cancellation and Bluetooth connectivity can cost several thousand dollars.

In general, you can expect to pay around $500-$1,000 per hearing aid. Some health insurance plans will cover part or all of the cost of hearing aids, so it’s worth checking to see if you have coverage. And don’t forget to shop around! Different retailers offer different prices, so it’s worth doing some comparison shopping to get the best deal.

Hearing aids require intensive testing and follow-up appointments. You may not need an expensive hearing aid to find one that works for you. The most important thing is to manage the type of hearing loss you’re experiencing, and find help to hear more clearly.

Where to Find Financial Assistance

Experts advise that Medicare does not cover hearing aids and hearing evaluations. Most health insurance plans also do not cover aids.

In some states, people with low income might qualify for hearing aid cost assistance for seniors through Medicaid. People with higher income may qualify for assistance, through county social services. Contact your local government’s social services to inquire about options and request an appointment.

However, don’t give up. If you have coverage, such as Medi-Cal and the VA, some plans may include them. Furthermore, local groups such as Kiwanis, Rotary Clubs, and Lions Clubs may be able to help with resources.

Hearingloss.org offers information to help find financial resources for hearing loss.

You’ve Heard the Horror Stories…

Senior man with blue shirt having ear examination with young female audiologist

You’ve probably had friends share their personal experiences. Maybe you’ve heard some horror stories of frustration. Fits-and-starts with mastering hearing aids. But let’s jump in anyway. The truth is better than denial or misinformation.

First, a hearing aid is not going to return your ears to your youth. Second, the hearing aid will not repair the cells that have become less sensitive to sound. With that said, they can still offer tremendous value.

Almost immediately hearing aids can usually help you hear better and with less effort. This alone allows for the return of common enjoyments like listening to birds or taking in a concert or movie.

They can also help you hear better in specific environments where without an aid that wouldn’t be possible. You can stay more engaged with conversations and experience deeper connections with people.

What Works Best?

The best hearing aids for seniors will depend on the person wearing them! While different people have different preferences for brand, shape, and features, there are a couple of things that will help ease the journey. As you’re investigating hearing aids and trying out a brand, keep this in mind.

  1. Hearing aids are not like glasses. It takes time to get used to them.
  2. You may need several trips to refine the aid to your needs.
  3. Keep the end in mind. This is a positive move for healthy aging.

Aren’t There Other Options?

Fortunately, in addition to a hearing aid, there are choices. Because hearing aids take some fiddling and fine-tuning, people may get fed up. It’s not like instant coffee. It takes some time to get used to having a device in your ears.

Some people dislike hearing aids and claim it is an intrusion into their body awareness. If this is your experience, consider some other options so you can move forward with better hearing.

  • Personal amplifying devices. Carry in your pocket, purse, or briefcase and use as needed. They are known to help users to hear better in small group settings andone-on-one conversations.
  • Assistive devices for phones. These may be offered free for people with hearing loss. Check with your local phone provider.
  • Assistive devices for TVs. You can adjust the volume while those watching with you can listen at a lower volume.

If you need more information on your options, check out our collection of assistive devices and technology articles.

Assistance Club Summary

When it comes to managing hearing loss, the one thing to remember is: You have options!

Check out your options for:

  1. Financial assistance for hearing evaluations and aids.
  2. Personal attitudes, such as focusing on positive benefits.
  3. Personal amplifiers such as hand-held pocket amplifiers.

By understanding your options, you’ll have an easier time finding the solutions that are best for you, your ears, and those that want to converse with you.