Over the last few years, several of my loved ones have decided to get hearing aids (finally!). With an improvement in their hearing, they are more engaged in our conversations and seem very happy with their decision. However, it was not an easy decision for them and it took them a longtime to take the step of using hearing aids. Interestingly, less than one in three older adults age 70 or more who have hearing loss and could receive help from hearing aids have ever used them. In fact, nearly 30 million Americans could benefit from hearing aides but do not use them. Primarily, this is because hearing aids can be expensive, difficult to access, and have a stigma associated with them. While these barriers have impacted the quality of life for older adults, improvements are on their way.
Hearing aids can cost thousands of dollars that are not covered as a Medicare benefit. Individuals often must travel to a hearing specialist to receive testing and a prescription for hearing aids. But now, the FDA is working on regulations to allow manufactures to sell hearing aids directly to individuals. This could lead to less expensive hearing aids sold over the counter to people who need them. If more people can afford and access hearing aids, the public perception of hearing aids could improve.
Untreated hearing loss is linked with depression and social isolation in older adults. Reducing the barriers to hearing aids is important to ensure that people have the best quality of life possible. We must all acknowledge the need for less expensive, easier to access hearing aids and work to find solutions to reduce stigma.
Three things to learn about this week:
- Quick Statistics About Hearing
- Impact of Hearing Loss on Quality of Life in Older Adults
- Untreated Hearing Loss Linked to Depression, Social Isolation in Seniors