Hearing loss is the third most common chronic physical condition in the United States, and is more prevalent than diabetes or cancer, affecting not just how people communicate but self-esteem, mental, emotional and physical health. This is why The World Health Organization (WHO) has named March 3rd World Hearing Day. This day is designed to raise awareness for hearing loss as a dangerous condition if ignored. This day is intended to inform people of the condition and promote seeking treatment immediately. Each year WHO creates a theme for World Health Day and this years’ is “ Hearing Care For All! Screen, Rehabilitate, Communicate”
Hearing Care For All!
Making hearing care available for all is a complex task relying on making care accessible and affordable. Hearing loss becomes more common as we age and by the time we reach 65 one out of three people in the US suffer from hearing loss. By 75 half of all people will have to navigate this serious disability.
Despite the common nature of this condition many insurance companies do not cover hearing aids, which are the most common and successful treatment for hearing loss. This has been attributed in the past to grey lines in policy, which labels hearing aids as elective, meaning that they are not necessary. However, this could be no further from the truth. Hearing aids amplify sounds in place of a hearing impairment making it easier for those who use these devices to not only communicate with loved ones, and co-workers but to improve sense of confidence, decrease depression, and reduce risk of falls, accidents, hospitalizations and even death.
As of 2017 there were 23 states that covered hearing care, but this often only covered the initial screening, leaving patients with the expensive bill of trying to cover hearing aids out of pocket. In many cases, this only covers hearing aids for children, leaving seniors to fend for themselves. Current legislation is in process in the US to make hearing aids covered by insurance companies. If this legislation is passed this can eliminate major barriers in treating hearing impairments for people of all ages and financial backgrounds.
Hearing loss often starts slowly showing up as the loss of some syllables, consonants or tones. However, even a slight hearing loss can make a big impact on how we hear, and our mental and emotional health. It is commonly understood that untreated hearing loss has been connected to cognitive impairment, and a greater risk of developing dementia. Studies find that even a mild hearing loss affects a person’s cognitive abilities, including recall and speed. The sooner you can identify a hearing loss, the sooner you can seek treatment, meaning less of an impact on your emotional, physical and mental health. If many of these conditions go ignored, they can become more severe than the original condition. Make sure to use this year’s World Hearing Day as an excuse to have your hearing screened and identify a potential hearing loss now!
The most common causes of hearing loss are sensorineural, meaning damage to the cells of the inner ear, which send sound information to your brain to be processed. This type of hearing loss is irreversible but can be treated effectively using hearing aids. Hearing aids help to rebuild relationships which have become strained due to years of miscommunication, as well as increase earning potential by 50%. In addition to the opportunity to reconnect, help to restore a sense of confidence and independence which may impact an individual’s ability to navigate the world safely. Studies show that hearing aids have the potential to prevent falls by improving balance and awareness of space. A hearing aid may be able to do more that improve your listening ability but help you avoid a potentially dangerous fall, which is one of the most common causes of injury and death for people over 65.
The important thing to understand is that caring for your hearing begins with you. If you suspect you may have a hearing impairment it is important for you to address it today. Healthy communication gives you the opportunity to stay connected to the people you love and the life you enjoy living. Use World Hearing Day as an excuse to address your hearing health now and schedule a hearing test today!