YOU MAY be turning the sound up a bit on the TV, finding it a bit harder to make out the words on a dubbed TV programme or just failing to pick out a voice in the babble after a meal: perhaps it is time to get a hearing check.
Across France, more than six million people have hearing difficulties and 40 per cent of them are under 55.
However, only 15 per cent have a hearing aid. The situation is likely to get worse because as many as one in five adolescents suffers hearing problems owing to the damage from loud music.
Continued exposure to noise louder than 85 decibels will cause noise-related hearing loss. Personal stereos in France have been legally limited to 100dBA since 1999 and discotheques are limited to 105dBA.
You can get an appointment with an oto-rhino-laryngologiste (ORT) specialist through médecin traitant (GP) or you can get a free test directly from a specialist hearing aid shop such as market leader Audika.After the test the audioprothésiste will work out what aids you need and will give you a devis normalisé d’appareillage auditif, which includes details of the aids that are available or advised for each ear and the prices, plus any associated and continuing costs.
Hearing aids are expensive, and the Caisses d’Assurance Maladie flat-rate refund is minuscule compared to the purchase cost. Refunds only apply for models on its liste des produits et prestations (LPP).
Your entitlement to a refund depends on your age, your type of deafness and the model of aid chosen.
Under-20s and patients who are also blind get 65 per cent of their costs refunded on models on the LPP. These cost between €900 to €1,400.
For the over-twenties, the base de remboursement is set at e199.71 per ear, no matter what kind of hearing aid you get. The tariff of 65 per cent means you get only €259.62 per pair of aids.
The caisse also funds batteries and servicing with a refund of €36.59 per year, plus €4.91 for ear moulds.
Each year about 250,000 hearing aids are bought in France, with 60 per cent being behind-the-ear models that have a tube that comes round the ear and into the ear canal.
Digitalisation has made them very small and reliable. They can contain more than one microphone to give better directional hearing.
In-ear and ear-plug style models are used for more severe hearing problems.
Presbycusis, or age-related hearing loss, is the major cause of problems in over-fifties, but starts in late teens when people lose the ability to hear very high-pitched noises.
This is the basis for the “Mosquito” sound machines used to stop youngsters loitering in shop doorways: they can hear the annoying sound but older people, even in their twenties, cannot.