Beginning hearing loss: react early

Do you hear me? Usually the environment first notices when the hearing is deteriorating. If you act on time and go to the doctor, you can keep your hearing for longer

It is estimated that 3.7 million people in Germany live with a hearing aid. 1.7 million people affected do not use hearing aids - even though they urgently need one

© Getty Images / fStop_Car Smith

Hear less - it doesn't just happen, it is usually a gradual process over the years. This is why people who are hard of hearing often do not even notice that their sense of hearing is not working as it should. If you turn the TV or radio louder, keep asking questions, misunderstand things, the people around you often first become aware.

Further indications that make relatives sit up and take notice: Many of those affected fail to hear the knock on the door or the ringing of the phone, tire quickly during long conversations, look more closely at the other person's lips or move closer in order to be able to hear better. Many also react irritably because they are not aware of everything, or they withdraw.

How to deal with hearing loss

"Initially, people who are hard of hearing can easily follow the communication with a person. But if there is background noise or many people talk confused, they can no longer participate in the conversation," explains Dr. Michael Deeg from the professional association of ear, nose and throat doctors.

Instead of confronting the problem and taking the hearing test, some are firmly convinced that the others just need to speak more clearly and louder. In his Freiburg practice, Deeg made the experience that this is why many patients come to him too late and that he has to diagnose an advanced level of hearing loss.

His advice: Even if it is difficult for relatives, they should remain understanding, but still try to persuade the partner or family member to take a hearing test. Offer yourself as a companion!

Displacement takes revenge

Because waiting too long has consequences. The sense of hearing adjusts itself over that
Years on. If the relevant nerve cells in the brain are no longer stimulated enough, this also affects the processing of the stimuli in the long term.

It takes longer to get used to the hearing aid: "Even if the person affected is given a hearing aid, they can perceive the volume again, but speech understanding has mostly suffered," says Deeg.

The brain does not adjust spontaneously despite the hearing aid. "Those affected perceive noises with a hearing aid as particularly loud and they rarely wear them," reports Deeg. But that intensifies the negative spiral.

Advice on the selection of the hearing aid

If, on the other hand, the hearing aid is worn early and regularly, speech intelligibility can be maintained to almost 100 percent or it can slowly improve. "Ideally, you should wear it all day," advises the ENT doctor. Even a daily use of six hours shows positive effects.

When using the new device in the ear, hearing care professionals can help with individual training. There, hearing-impaired people can have their hearing systems adjusted by the ear, nose and throat doctor with an appropriate prescription.

Subsidies from the health insurance company

  • The statutory health insurances in Germany cover the fixed amount of up to 784.94 euros for a hearing aid, for both ears up to 924.94 euros. The patient bears the prescription fee of 10 euros. A new device can be requested every six years.
  • Anyone who chooses a hearing aid that is subject to additional payment must bear the additional costs themselves. Each fund has its own additional contribution rates.
  • What many do not consider: the cash register does not pay anything for repairs or additional maintenance of these devices.

"Hearing test results are included as well as personal wishes and needs. Because a musician has different requirements for his personal listening pleasure than an athlete, for example," says Marianne Frickel, President of the Federal Guild of Hearing Aid.

Fear and vanity

In total, it is estimated that around 3.7 million hearing aid wearers in this country. The average age has fallen from 74 by more than five years in the last ten years. Nevertheless, there are still 1.7 million people affected who have not yet used a hearing aid - even though they need one.

In addition to the fear of stigmatization, a different, very human feeling also plays a role for many. Both the technicians and the Barmer health insurance company have identified vanity in surveys as one of the reasons why people suppress their problem.

"We assume that too," confirms Frickel. Although hearing systems are now high-performance minicomputers and smart companions with a wide range of functions that go far beyond good hearing.

Online hearing test by the Gutes Hören support group:

Seek a conversation with an ENT specialist

"Many people are often annoyed afterwards that they did not decide on the hearing aid earlier, because it gives back a significant measure of quality of life," reports Frickel.
Even if hearing care professionals also offer hearing tests, Deeg recommends going to an ENT doctor, especially for the first prescription.

"A hearing loss - especially if it only occurs unilaterally - can have many causes and requires a diagnosis and often further medical treatment." In some cases, surgery can even remedy the reason for the hearing loss - and a hearing aid is no longer necessary.