Increase Access and Independence for People with Hearing Loss
Many people realize that more than half of us have some degree of hearing loss by the time we reach 60. The percentage of the population at large is about 20 percent—fewer children and young adults and many more of us as we get older.
The data also says that people wait about seven years after realizing they have a hearing loss to get hearing aids. Sometimes that is just plain avoidance; other times, it is the high cost of the hearing aids.
Then comes the really complex part—what kind of hearing aid to get, what features to request, and how to best address one’s specific hearing loss. There are dozens of models, even among the range of hearing aids that can best accommodate one’s specific audiometry characteristics (an audiogram is the hearing test that tells how much you hear at various frequencies of sound).
What is seldom discussed in hearing aid selection, however, is telecoils (sometimes called T-coils). If your hearing aid does not include a telecoil, you cannot use the ADA-mandated hearing assistive systems in public venues. This has been borne out in survey data. People with hearing aids miss the opportunity to achieve clarity as well as volume in theaters, public meetings, churches, and other venues where there are hearing assistive systems.
To make matters more confusing, Bluetooth is now available as a feature in some hearing aids. Bluetooth is a wonderful feature but it doesn’t do the same thing as telecoils. See a description of each here.
Since so many people are not told about these features or are told about one but not the other, the Hearing Loss Association-WA has asked the Washington State Legislature to pass a bill that would require hearing aid dispensers and audiologists, to tell their customers about both telecoils and Bluetooth, what they are used for, and how to use them.
We urge anyone with a hearing aid, anyone who might need a hearing aid in the near future, and anyone who knows others who benefit from hearing aids or need them to support HB 1078 and companion bill SB 5210, notifying purchasers of hearing instruments about uses and benefits of telecoil and Bluetooth technology. Find your district’s legislators here or call the toll-free Legislative Hotline (1-800-562-6000) to send a message to all three at one time. Ask them to support HB 1078 and SB 5210.
If you’re shopping for hearing aids, read “Buying Hearing Aids in Washington (What to expect).”
Contributor Cynthia Stewart is president of Hearing Loss Association—WA and active in a variety of civic affairs. Read her article, “Understand Hearing Loss—And Take Action,” in the May 2018 issue of AgeWise King County.
This article original appeared in the February 2019 issue of AgeWise King County.