Shying away from getting help for your hearing loss? Feeling embarrassed to let people know that you’re having trouble hearing them? Worrying what people will say when they notice a device decorating your ear? Does hearing loss make you feel old?

To treat or not to treat

Many people suffering with some degree of hearing loss prefer to remain untreated rather than visiting an audiologist. Why would a person avoid getting the support that they need?

The reasons may be many. Potential patients usually quote the cost of hearing aids as their objection to purchasing the devices. It is not an unreasonable observation, but often, there is another underlying reason – Stigma

My story. My stigma.

I, the author, felt the stigma too. I started wearing hearing aids in my late 20’s. The clue that made me realise I had a problem, that something was wrong, was when I realised I heard more sounds while lying down on my left side than when lying on my right. Eventually, I took a deep breath and turned to Dr Tami Mehl, audiologist in Johannesburg. Following the assessment, her feedback was that my hearing loss resembled age-related impairment. Blush!

My prescription hearing aids were duly installed and customised and then an internal battle began. Getting the hearing devices was the easy part. The hard part was actually wearing them, in public. Could people see them? Did my hair cover them completely? Should I just forget the whole thing? I could continue to ask people to repeat themselves; to ask the speaker to remove their hand from in front of their mouth (my lip reading had reached quite a high level!); or, my personal favourite, when asked why I didn’t respond to a question, I could answer that I had selective hearing!

Luckily for me, the benefits soon outweighed my doubts. I no longer worried about making embarrassing and potentially high cost mistakes in my job. Now I could catch the words and, specifically, the speaker’s tone of voice during business meetings. A momentary blush in the face of any pre-judgement is worth far more than the possibility of losing company money in a deal misunderstood. On the whole, people don’t even notice my hearing aids unless I point them out.

I remember that in my childhood I thought hearing loss was only for the ageing process. I had to change that idea very quickly. Do you also have a memory of an aging family member with a large and ugly hearing device hanging over their ear? I think that’s also part of the reason I didn’t want that initial assessment – the fear that I’d look “old” before my time. But the hearing aids of today are much neater and less noticeable than those our grandparents wore. If you choose to, you can even emphasise your device and make a fashion statement with a coloured or patterned instrument. What’s a little undesired accessory compared to the benefits of hearing?


I was seen by Tami Mehl at my ripe old age of 85. It is an absolute pleasure to have dealt with someone who is so respectful and caring of us old folks. With her patience and understanding, she walked me through the hearing tests and sorted out the best hearing aids for my lifestyle. I would certainly recommend Tami to all of my friends. I cannot express my gratitude in how the hearing aids have enhanced my lifestyle.

Clive Black