Your health is what you make of it. Everything you do and think either adds to the vitality, energy and spirit you possess or takes away from it.
– Ann Wigmore
Our health is so important. It can impact our days for better or worse, and much of it is in our control. One of the best ways to monitor our health is through our annual wellness visits – visits to our physician, eye doctor, hearing healthcare provider and dentist.
These appointments can give us a baseline view of our health – where we are, where we’re going and what we can do to improve our health before the next visit.
What’s more, they are an opportunity for prevention and early identification of health problems, including those that involve our hearing health.
What is the Annual Wellness Visit
Annual hearing evaluations can be invaluable in diagnosing and treating hearing loss, but not everyone schedules them. This may be due to cost, a belief that they’re not necessary or even fear of the unknown. In recent years, experts have recognized that an annual wellness visit to a physician could be the perfect opportunity to evaluate hearing health. This is especially in an older population more likely to have hearing loss.
This benefit was introduced as part of the Medicare Part B expansion under the Affordable Care Act, and is for those older adults with Medicare Part B. They are eligible for a wellness visit every 12 months. During the visit, these individuals may also be taken through a Health Risk Assessment questionnaire. These questions address many common risks to patients such as falls, social support, diabetes, activity levels and even hearing health.
But, is the assessment doing enough to identify and treat hearing loss?
Maximizing the opportunity
While the Annual Wellness Visit and its Health Risk Assessment are invaluable, experts believe it is an opportunity that is not being maximized. This missed opportunity is especially true when it comes to hearing loss. Not only do many physicians not complete the assessment, but those that do also may not have the training they need to identify hearing loss.
Without a doubt, these professionals can help physicians better understand the risks of hearing loss, how to identify hearing loss, and the next best steps when a hearing loss is suspected. In fact, experts are now diving into this task with further study of the Health Risk Assessment process and how to maximize it. They are also creating better ways to support physicians when it comes to evaluating hearing health. This includes guides for physicians that cover:
Tips for starting the conversation with patients
Tips for identifying patients who may have hearing or speech difficulties
Strategies to screen for hearing loss
How to make referrals when hearing loss is suspected
Tips for patients on how to manage hearing loss.
Collaboration like this is a win-win for the patient, physician and hearing healthcare providers alike!
If you have a Medicare Annual Wellness Visit on the schedule, ask your physician about the Health Risk Assessment. Discussing your hearing health could help you prevent hearing loss and other related health issues down the road.