Untreated hearing loss is quickly becoming a significant health concern. At the time of this writing, 38.2 million Americans who are 12 years of age or older have some measure of hearing loss, and the problem keeps getting worse. Hearing loss is an annoying and inconvenient problem, especially for older adults. Hearing loss can affect one’s health and wallet. The time has come for hearing loss to be viewed as a serious health concern.
Surprisingly, hearing aids and the service they require receive no coverage by health insurance or Medicare. This exclusion policy has not changed since 1965 with the legislation for Medicare. The law came about at a time when hearing loss was not a serious health concern. However, with the ever-increasing amount of research on hearing loss and its connection with other illnesses, the policy may be changing. A few new studies are addressing the relationship between untreated hearing loss and other physical ailments.
There is an association amongst untreated hearing loss and health and two investigations are connecting hearing loss with an increased risk of dementia, depression, falls, and cardiovascular disease. In a considerable number of individuals, the hearing impairment may be the actual cause of the associated health problem.
The first study involves 154,414 adults age 50 and older and uses information from administrative claims data. The findings suggest a direct relationship between untreated hearing loss and an increase in incident morbidity. Specifically, untreated hearing loss increases the risk of developing dementia. The researchers believe that further studies are needed to determine the underlying causes of these relationships.
In another study, a research team is establishing a link between untreated hearing loss and an increase in the frequency and duration of hospital admissions and readmissions. This study involving claims data compares people with no hearing loss to people with a hearing impairment. The result is higher healthcare costs with an increase in the risk of hospital readmissions.
Despite the risks involved, many people wait too long to have a hearing evaluation with a hearing healthcare professional. Age-related hearing loss frequently comes on slowly making it difficult to notice, so it is essential to have your hearing checked regularly. However, some people do have their hearing tested and spend vast sums of money for hearing aids that they do not wear. The complaints range from poor amplification to excess static. It is vital for people with hearing loss to understand that hearing aids are not a one size fits all item. The fit and features of hearing aids vary, so it is essential to find one that provides for your hearing needs to avoid a miserable experience.
Research is gradually putting the loss of hearing ability in the spotlight. The more we know, the better we will be able to address the problems associated with hearing loss. Perhaps insurance companies will re-evaluate their view of hearing loss as a health concern and take steps to make hearing aids available to all who need them. As always, get a hearing evaluation by a hearing healthcare professional today!