According to researchers at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), “Hearing loss is the third most common chronic condition in the United States.” Even more surprising is that only 14% of physicians routinely screen for hearing loss during a physical exam. Hearing health is often neglected; some patients with hearing loss may try to hide the condition due to the stigma surrounding hearing loss. Additionally, some physicians still believe that hearing loss is just a natural part of aging, so they don’t screen or recommend treatment for it.
At Concept by Iowa Hearing Aid Centers, we recommend that people take control of their own hearing health by being proactive about getting their hearing screened, learn what can cause hearing loss, and have open and honest communication with their family doctor about any hearing issues they are experiencing.
Proactive Hearing Screenings
One in three Americans will suffer from some form of hearing loss by the time they reach the age of 65. Since hearing loss often occurs gradually, routine hearing tests should be included as part of every adult’s health care maintenance.
Kat Klauer, Concept’s Licensed Hearing Instrument Specialist in the Quad Cities and Clinton clinics, recommends, “At age 40 you should schedule a baseline screening. This will be to inform you if your hearing is at a normal level for your age, and what actions you can take to protect your hearing as you age – as well establishing that baseline for future testing. I also recommend that after age 50, people have their hearing checked every three years. We are attuned to other regular medical preventative testing and screenings, such as lipid and glucose tests, mammograms, and colonoscopies, but very few people have added hearing screenings as a part of this routine.”
Professionally administered hearing screenings, like those offered by Concept, are the best way to create a benchmark for your hearing and monitor changes over time. “At Concept, we explain your current hearing health and make recommendations on when to return for a retest if you do not have hearing loss. Or, we recommend the appropriate hearing aids to treat your hearing loss, or, give you a referral to an ENT when found necessary,” Kat explains.
Hearing Loss and Related Conditions
Research shows that many health conditions can have a negative effect on hearing health and vice versa. These conditions include:
- Cardiovascular disease.
- Rheumatoid Arthritis.
- Depression (sometimes related to isolation and stress caused by hearing loss).
People diagnosed with these conditions should discuss any changes they notice in their hearing with their family doctors and have regular hearing screenings. “It is important for everyone, including physicians, to be aware that health conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, smoking, and obesity put people at an increased risk for hearing loss,” Kat says. “These conditions make addressing and monitoring hearing levels even more important.”
Particularly in the case of cognitive issues, treating hearing loss with hearing aids often improves patient outcomes. Current research from Johns Hopkins University shows a link between untreated hearing loss and depression, dementia, and other cognitive problems.
Honest Communication is Key
Being honest with your primary care physician is key to getting the best hearing health care. Patients should bring all of their concerns about a possible hearing loss to the attention of their primary care physician, and then follow through on any screening recommendations the doctor makes. “I encourage my patients to keep their family doctor engaged in their hearing health,” says Kat. “During your regular visit, share with them whether or not you have addressed your hearing health by getting an evaluation, or if you have treated your hearing loss with hearing aids.”
If you believe you have hearing loss, and your doctor does not recommend regular screenings, we encourage you to take the initiative to schedule a complimentary hearing screening for your own understanding. If you are diagnosed with hearing loss and are a candidate for hearing aids, you can likely take advantage of your Health Savings Account (also called flex spending), if you have one, to help pay for your treatment. Some patients choose to use a portion of their tax refund towards hearing aids. Your local Concept clinic will always contact your insurance company to see if your policy covers the cost of hearing aids, and, if so, what impact the coverage would have towards meeting your deductible for the year.