Now is the Time to Focus on Hearing Health

hearing aid

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Did you know that 30 million people are currently affected by hearing loss? More than 40% of individuals over age 60, and 60% of those older than 70 will face hearing loss. And these are just the facts. Think about it…if you don’t know someone with a hearing loss, you soon will.

What then are the effects of hearing loss with the quality of life as we age?  According to Lin, a prominent researcher at Johns Hopkins, hearing loss has been associated with cognitive decline and dementia, depression, poorer physical functioning, and even increasing numbers of falls and injury.

Hearing health is not a part of primary care and it should be

According to Cassel, Penhoet and Saunders, they feel that the medical profession has not shown enough interest and that assessing hearing health is not a part of primary care.  The feeling is that hearing loss is viewed as a “normal aspect of aging” and that hearing health has not been viewed as a priority.

Further, the authors share that despite the availability of technology and hearing aids, “only 1 in 5” with hearing loss even use hearing aids. There are a variety of reasons for this fact, but let’s look at some of the reasons they suggest, with cost being an enormous factor.

Hearing technology is available at an enormous out-of-pocket cost. I speak for myself and for my husband who has extensive personal experience with hearing loss and the communication problems it creates.  He began noticing hearing loss in his late 20’s. Now in his 50’s, he has had multiple surgeries in an attempt to correct the problem. Initially, with the use of hearing aids and assistive technology, and now with the use of two cochlear implants, he is able to communicate in his professional and personal life. But, needless to say, the experience hasn’t been easy.  Insurance, while it covered much of the cost of the operations, did not pay for either the hearing aids or the assistive devices required to use the cochlear technology.  The authors shared that in 1965 hearing aid coverage was excluded by Medicare because they were considered “low cost and therefore should be paid for by the consumer.”

Hmmm, low cost?? The average cost for a hearing aid is about $2400, and in my husband’s case, he needed two. The cost of the cochlear technology is significantly higher, more in the $3 to $4,000 range for each, and again, he now has two.

The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) recently released a report highlighting the need to reduce cost and promote innovation in hearing technology.  As consumers, we must to join together as the authors suggest, to advocate for cost reduction in hearing technology and increase our knowledge about the available options to promote overall hearing health.  We should be cognizant of what we can do right now to prevent hearing loss and avail ourselves with the technologies that can improve hearing and communication should we face hearing loss.  The views of these authors will help to shed more light on the issues surrounding hearing loss. Let’s keep the dialogue going.

Citation: Lin, FR, Niparko, JK, Ferrucci, L. (2011). Hearing loss prevalence in the United States. Archives of Internal Medicine. 1851-1852.

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