InvestigationA quarter of French adults have a hearing loss. A percentage that increases with age. However, getting fitted is a milestone that some seniors have difficulty overcoming, as a sign of badly assumed old age.
According to those close to him, Felipe Kriegelstein, 80, is showing bad faith. This retired aeronautical engineer, spirited president of the union council of his condominium in Levallois-Perret, in the Hauts-de-Seine, refuses to admit that he is losing his hearing as late “Granny Kriegelstein”. When his wife and daughters suggest he go see an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist, he dodges the problem: “I can hear television very well.. If you spoke as distinctly as Evelyne Dhéliat or Louis Bodin, I wouldn’t make you repeat ! In any case, we are lucky because we have everything twice…”, he declares, provocatively, putting his hands on both ears. After his breakfast, he systematically stuffs hearing aid advertisements, which he considers a “big scam”, in his junk mail: “Even the eyewear merchants are getting into it! They make a fuss out of themselves with these gadgets! »
Like one in two people over the age of 65, Felipe Kriegelstein most likely suffers from presbycusis, a progressive loss of hearing due to age. This phenomenon represents nearly nine out of ten cases of deafness in France, according to WHO figures. Unlike presbyopia (difficulty seeing closely linked to the natural aging of the eye), presbycusis is often put aside by those affected: the average time between awareness and fitting can reach ten years (Eurotrak, 2022). And again, only 37% of patients affected by disabling hearing loss – which refers to hearing loss greater than 35 decibels in the better ear and affects 4% of French people, according to a recent Inserm study – are equipped. “Presbycusis is a handicap in the relation to the other, it is all the difference with presbyopia. If the entourage is stigmatizing with phrases like: “You hear when it suits you”, the person concerned will flee”, explains Nicolas Dauman, lecturer in clinical psychopathology at the University of Poitiers.
Added to this is the disgusting memory of the big pink bean whistling behind the ears of our elders in the 1990s. “My brother-in-law always said, ‘Hello, this is Radio London’ when he passed by mum”says Simone Réveillon, 83, who has long rejected the idea of having a device. “Last year, when my daughter told me that I was going to end up alone in my corner, it clicked”, she admits. Worse, the shadow of Professor Calculus, with failing hearing, an inexhaustible source of misunderstandings and crazy situations, hangs over us… “Deafness has often been associated with madness”, explains Gaëlle Cointre, project manager in prevention and health promotion at the National Federation of French Mutual Insurance. Its “audition cafes” are an opportunity to deconstruct received ideas to uninhibit people on the subject: “The term ‘deaf’, for example, has long been used, because medicine was unable to detect the causes of hearing loss. In the same way that the deaf-mutes were not more mute than the others, they were just not stimulated. »
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