Hearing aids and the coming holidays

Your mother, or someone else that you love, may really struggle to hear properly and perhaps you have considered surprising them with a hearing aid(s) for the holidays. Don’t do it! What? Did that caution really just come from the keyboard of someone who sells hearing aids? Yes it did, and here is why.

Improving hearing with hearing aids is a very private process. The patient must recognize their need and be ready to act on the available options to improve their hearing. Price is not the number one reason why patients delay to get the help they need. Denial is the number one reason people put off.

I remember a number of very vivid examples from years ago where adult children brought their mom or dad to my office down in Virginia. The parent participated in all the outward parts of the hearing test and then the kids stepped in to decide price, model, and color. Delivery or “fitting” went well with the kids hovering over every aspect of their parent’s new hearings aids. At the one week follow-up appointment the kids were distressed that their parent would not actually wear the hearing aids on a consistent basis. I asked the patient, “Do you want these hearing aids?” On both occasions they said, “Nope.” I learned through those experiences to always ask the patient who comes with adult children if this is their idea? Do they, the patient, want to hear better?

You say, but Mom agreed to schedule the hearing test. “Agreeing to have an audiological evaluation is not the same as being fully prepared to enter the hearing aid process. Every audiologist knows that many patients enter the diagnostic phase looking for an authority figure to tell them that they do not need amplification. Although the patient may have faced many moments of tribulation, frequently the patient is looking for some other explanation or course of action rather than amplification. Once a hearing loss is established and a recommendation for amplification is made, there are personality factors such as locus of control that will influence the older patient’s willingness to follow those recommendations (Garstecki & Erler, 1998). The desire to appease a spouse or other family members who insist that the patient have a hearing evaluation may underlie the patient’s visit to the facility. There may not be a sincere willingness to listen to the options posed by the audiologist and follow the recommendation to pursue amplification (if one is made).” Audiologyonline.com

Family sympathy for a loved one’s hearing loss is commendable. Instead of scheduling them a hearing test and create a situation where they feel pressured by your initiative to get the hearing aids, just talk with them about your concerns and offer to help in any way that you can.

Market surveys in my industry tell us that patients are more motivated to purchase hearing aids before Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the graduation/wedding season in the Spring. They have memories of the last cycle at these family events where they could not hear well and are contemplating taking the step to hear better.

In that conversation I suggested having with that family member, if price is a hurdle for them you could offer your help and feel them out on their readiness. Don’t put a hearing aid gift certificate under the Christmas tree! Talk with mom or dad, etc. Express your concerns and your desire to have them hear better, but don’t attempt to make it happen for them. If they are not the one making the decision they will always ask for a refund within the thirty day trial period. Help mom or dad consider the decision to hear better but don’t try to make it happen for them.

Hearing care is health care. If you have the symptoms of hearing loss let a professional help you find out why. The hearing professional will help you sort out the technology level to meet your need, your budget, and answer your hearing need questions.


Jeffrey L. Bayliff, NBC-HIS, is Owner, Hear the Birds Hearing Aid Center, Lock Haven, PA


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