Posted on Leave a comment

Considering Traveling by Plane This Summer? Here is Some Information About Air Travel and Ear Pain (and what you can do to avoid it).

Many of us didn’t travel much in 2020, especially by airplane. It can be exciting to think about flying to a new destination (or an old favorite) again soon, but air travel isn’t all sunshine and flowers. For one thing, you never know how long the security line will be at the airport. Then there’s the issue of packing—how can you possibly fit everything you need into just one or two bags? And once you get on the airplane and you’re heading up into the sky, there’s the dreaded ear pain. Here are some easy tips to avoid ear pain while traveling by air.
What Causes Ear Pain during Air Travel?
The issue with ear pain and air travel is due to air pressure. When the air pressure inside and outside the inner ear are the same, as they usually are, you do not have ear pain. But when you rapidly change altitude, as you do when traveling by plane, the pressure inside and outside of the inner ear does not have time to equalize. This is what causes ear pain while traveling by air, and it is called ear barotrauma.
How Can You Prevent Ear Pain during Air Travel?
The key is to help the air pressure equalize inside and outside of the inner ear. This is the job of the Eustachian tube, which ensures that the air in the middle ear is being constantly replenished. That air is then absorbed into the membranes of the inner ear. To help this process, you can introduce as much air as possible until the pressure equalizes. Here are a few ways to do that:

  • Swallow.
    When you swallow, you might hear a clicking or popping sound. That sound is a tiny bubble of air that has moved from the back of the nose into the inner ear via the Eustachian tube. During air travel, opening the Eustachian tube more frequently by swallowing helps to accommodate the change in air pressure.
  • Chew gum or suck on hard candy.
    Chewing gum or sucking on hard candy can stimulate more frequent swallowing. This, in turn, opens the Eustachian tube and helps to equalize the air pressure.
  • Try the Valsalva maneuver.
    More commonly known as “clearing your ears,” the Valsalva maneuver opens the Eustachian tube and helps to equalize the air pressure. To do this, take a mouthful of air, close your mouth, pinch your nostrils shut, and gently force air out until your ears pop. do not try this maneuver if you have a cold or allergies because it could cause an ear infection. Instead, you can try the Toynbee maneuver. Close your mouth and nose, and then swallow several times until the pressure equalizes. Both of these techniques can be repeated as necessary.

Here are a few more simple things you can do to prevent ear pain during air travel:

  • If you can, stay awake during takeoff (ascent) and landing (descent).
  • Drink plenty of fluids both before and during your flight to stay hydrated.
  • Yawn.
  • Use nasal spray one hour prior to landing and only as needed. Overusing nasal sprays can cause more congestion.
  • Take a nasal decongestant one hour before landing, as well as after your flight until your ears normalize.
  • If you have young children, help them prevent ear pain by giving them candy such as a lollipop or having them drink through a straw or blow bubbles through a straw. If you have an infant, give them a pacifier or feed them during takeoff and landing.
  • If you are ill with a cold, the flu, or allergies, you may want to consider changing your travel plans. Your illness can cause a blockage in the Eustachian tube, which makes it more difficult or even impossible for the air pressure to equalize. This can lead to a ruptured eardrum or severe ear infection, which can lead to hearing loss or ear damage.

To learn more about how you can prevent ear pain while traveling by airplane, we welcome you to contact our hearing practice today. We are eager to help!

Posted on Leave a comment

1 in 20 People Has Disabling Hearing Loss. Are You One of Them?

Imagine you decide to throw a party and you invite 20 of your closest friends and family members. Statistically speaking, it is likely that when those 20 people are in the room, at least one of them has disabling hearing loss. That is what the World Health Organization (WHO) found in a recent study: more than one in 20 people has disabling hearing loss.
Disabling hearing loss means that the better-hearing ear has moderate or worse hearing loss, with the hearing loss affecting the person’s quality of life. While illustrative exercises like imagining your 20 closest friends at a party can help you understand the shocking commonality of disabling hearing loss, the truth is that hearing loss does not equally affect the entire population of the world. 432 million adults and 34 million children have disabling hearing loss, according to the WHO, and most of the sufferers live in poor- and middle-income countries.
It is projected that by 2050, more than 900 million people worldwide will suffer from significant hearing impairment. While there is little you can do as an individual to prevent hearing loss worldwide, you can take steps to protect your own hearing—and encourage your loved ones to do the same. Here are some simple yet effective ways to protect your hearing health:

  • Avoid excessive loud noises. Wear ear protection when exposed to loud noise, such as at construction sites, factories, while doing yard work, etc.
  • Keep your music at a reasonable volume. Listening to loud music can, over time, damage your hearing.
  • Get a hearing evaluation if you believe you might have hearing loss. This ensures that any hearing loss is identified and treated.

With one in 20 people now suffering from disabling hearing loss and that number expected to double in the next 30 years, it is not unlikely that you will experience hearing loss at some point. The numbers of people with age-related hearing loss are even greater than those with disabling hearing loss; one in three people between the ages of 65-75 years has hearing loss, and nearly half of those over the age of 75 have difficulty hearing.
It is important that you schedule a hearing evaluation with your hearing professional as soon as you notice any signs of hearing loss. Untreated hearing loss has been linked to depression, social isolation, anxiety, more frequent falls, dementia, and more. By seeking professional treatment, you can avoid these problems and start hearing better thanks to new hearing technology, including hearing aids.
Whether your hearing loss is caused by age, excessive loud noises, illness, or any other cause, you can rest assured that hearing technology is advancing quickly. Hearing aids are no longer bulky and difficult to adjust; today’s hearing aids are small, discreet, and come in a variety of colors and designs. Modern hearing aids also come with a variety of features that make them easier to use and integrate into your daily life, like Bluetooth connectivity, rechargeable batteries, and more.
For more information about hearing loss and to schedule an appointment with our skilled hearing professional, we welcome you to contact our hearing practice today. We look forward to caring for you.

Posted on Leave a comment

Think You May Have Hearing Loss? Here Is What To Do

477 million: that’s the number of people worldwide who live with hearing loss. Among people 75 and older, nearly half have hearing loss. These numbers make it clear that hearing loss is far from uncommon, and it can happen to anyone. So, if you think you might have hearing loss, what should you do?
Here are six simple steps you should take if you think you have hearing loss:
1) Know the signs.
While every person experiences hearing loss a little differently, there are common symptoms you can watch out for to know whether you may have hearing loss. Common signs of hearing loss include:

  • Frequently asking people to repeat themselves
  • Turning the TV or music to a volume that other people find loud
  • Difficulty understanding conversation in noisy places
  • Trouble hearing women’s and children’s voices
  • Difficulty hearing on the phone
  • Feeling like other people are frequently mumbling
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Avoiding social situations you once enjoyed
  • Other people, such as your spouse, friends, or family members, telling you that you might have hearing loss

2) Have your hearing tested.
If you have noticed the signs of hearing loss, or if a loved one has suggested you might have hearing loss, the next step is to have your hearing tested. You can start with an online test (many online hearing tests are free), or you can go to a hearing health professional. The benefit of seeing a professional for a hearing test is they will be able to explain your results and what action should be taken.
3) Decide whether you want to treat your hearing loss.
If the results of your hearing test reveal that you do have hearing loss, it is time to decide what you’re going to do about it. You could ignore the problem, but this is not recommended. The effects of untreated hearing loss include social ones, like not hearing important information, feeling lonely when you cannot have conversations as you once did, mishearing conversations (especially in noisy environments), and feeling frustrated in social situations. Untreated hearing loss can also affect your overall health; those with untreated hearing loss are at a greater risk for depression, anxiety, falls, and dementia.
Treating your hearing loss, on the other hand, can lower your risk for all of these problems. It can also help you enjoy auditory experiences you may have forgotten about, like hearing the birds outside your window or the babbling sound of the little stream that runs alongside your favorite nature walk. You will also be able to understand conversations with your loved ones and feel comfortable and confident in social situations.
4) See a hearing professional.
If you did not see a hearing health professional for your hearing test, now is the time to schedule an appointment with an audiologist, hearing aid specialist, or ENT. The hearing professional will be able to determine how severe the hearing loss is and recommend the best treatment for your specific needs.
5) Ask to try hearing aids.
Hearing aids are a common and effective way to treat hearing loss. Did you know that most states require a 30- or 60-day trial period for hearing aids? This allows you enough time to try out your hearing aids and see how they are working for you. Your hearing professional will help you with any adjustments you need, and they can also recommend different hearing aids if you feel you didn’t get the right fit the first time.
Although over-the-counter hearing aids are now available, the best choice is often to get personalized ones from a hearing professional. With this option, your hearing professional can make certain that the hearing aids are tailored to your specific needs and preferences.
6) Enjoy hearing well.
Most people who try hearing aids report that they enjoy many activities so much more now—from listening to music to conversing with friends, and from hearing the sounds of nature to watching TV without turning the volume up to the max. In addition, you can rest assured that you have lowered your risk for the health problems associated with untreated hearing loss. Now, that’s something to celebrate!
If you would like more information or think you might have hearing loss, we invite you to contact our hearing practice today. We look forward to taking care of you.

Posted on Leave a comment

New Study Confirms Link Between COVID-19 and Symptoms of Hearing Loss, Tinnitus, and Vertigo

Now that we have been dealing with the global COVID-19 pandemic for over a year now, you have probably learned that symptoms of COVID can vary from person to person. Some people experience difficulty breathing, while others only suffer from a loss of taste or smell. Some people experience nausea or vomiting, while others have a fever and chills.
You may also know that certain viruses can lead to hearing difficulties, including measles, mumps, and meningitis. But what about the coronavirus? Could one of the varying symptoms of COVID-19 be an effect on your hearing? A new study found that yes, there is a link between COVID-19 and symptoms of hearing loss, tinnitus, and vertigo.
Tinnitus is the most common hearing symptom reported by those suffering from COVID-19. Tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, is a fairly common condition on its own, with nearly 15 percent of the population (approximately 50 million Americans) experiencing some form of tinnitus. Most people who experience tinnitus also have hearing loss, which suggests a close link between the two conditions. Researchers suspect that tinnitus is one of the first signs that the hearing system has been damaged by factors like excessive noise or ototoxic drugs.
Tinnitus has been reported to be a common symptom of what is referred to as “long COVID,” which is where symptoms persist weeks or even months after the infection is gone. The exact connection between tinnitus and COVID-19 is unclear. It may be that the virus affects the auditory system, or tinnitus may be caused by stress from the pandemic.
While tinnitus is most frequently reported by those suffering from long COVID, hearing difficulties have been reported by patients of a wide age range who experienced the illness in varying degrees of severity. Hearing loss has been reported among those with mild cases that were managed as home, as well as among severe cases that required hospitalization. There have also been several reports of sudden hearing loss in one ear, accompanied by tinnitus, from patients with COVID-19.
Research has found that viruses can cause sudden hearing loss, so SARS-CoV-2 may be responsible for the cases of sudden hearing loss reported in COVID patients. However, because of the high number of COVID patients worldwide, it is difficult for researchers to determine whether the rate of sudden hearing loss is higher than normal.
Many COVID patients also report dizziness as a symptom of the disease. Dizziness may be difficult to differentiate from rotatory vertigo, which is caused by damage to the balance system in the inner ear. The best estimate from current surveys and reports is that rotatory vertigo occurs in approximately 7 percent of COVID cases.
From these reports, it is clear that COVID-19 is linked to hearing difficulties, including hearing loss, tinnitus, and vertigo. Further research is needed to more fully establish the connection and the true cause of these symptoms. To learn more about how COVID and hearing problems are linked, we invite you to contact our hearing clinic today. We are eager to assist you.

Posted on Leave a comment

Do You Have a Stubborn Loved One? Here’s How to Help Them Wear Hearing Aids

It probably is not news to you that some people can be very stubborn and set in their ways. This can be especially true of older people who do not want to wear hearing aids—and may not even want to acknowledge that they are experiencing hearing loss. If you have a loved one who needs hearing aids and is reluctant to do so, you are not alone.
Here are some simple tips you can use to help your loved one be more willing to wear their hearing aids:

  • Highlight the positives.

It can be easy to talk about the negative effects of hearing loss, like social isolation, loneliness, depression, anxiety, and more. But put yourself in your loved one’s shoes—would you like it if someone only discussed negative effects with you? This approach can seem very heavy-handed and can put your loved one on the defensive.
It can be much more persuasive to focus on the positive effects that hearing aids could bring to their life. Talk with your loved one about how they will be better able to enjoy music, hear the sounds of nature, communicate more easily with friends and family, and more.

  • Focus on the facts.

Instead of focusing on how hearing loss negatively impacts your loved one’s life (and your own), which can result in a very emotionally charged discussion, talk about the facts of hearing aids. Highlight features like Bluetooth connectivity, the ability to reduce background noise, and other impressive high-tech aspects of modern hearing aids.

  • Be gentle.

Take a soft approach to help your loved one wear hearing aids. Do not try to pressure them or guilt them into scheduling an appointment with an audiologist or hearing aid professional. Hearing loss can be a sensitive subject, so approach it with care. Try to understand your loved one’s feelings and work with them.

  • Address the cost.

One common concern among people who need hearing aids is the cost. Even if a person understands how hearing aids could positively affect their life, they may feel reluctant if they do not know how much they will be spending to get their hearing aids. Explain that hearing aids can range in price depending on the type and how high-tech they are. Your hearing aid professional can work with you and your loved one to find a solution that fits both their hearing needs and their budget.

  • Go with them.

Some people do not like to go to the doctor on their own. They might feel uncertain about going places alone with hearing loss because they might not hear a question from the staff, or they may feel nervous about discussing their health history. Offer to attend their appointment with them to assist them and offer emotional support.

  • Ask them why.

Your loved one might be feeling stubborn about wearing hearing aids for a reason that is completely different from what you assume! The best way to find out why they are being stubborn is to ask them. Be sure to make clear that you will not be judgmental or dismissive of their concerns. Listen attentively and respond with care to address their worries.
If you would like more ideas on how you can help your loved one wear hearing aids, or if you need to schedule an appointment, please contact our hearing professional today. We are eager to care for you.

Posted on Leave a comment

How Does Hearing Loss Affect Men and Women Differently?

Hearing loss doesn’t discriminate—it can affect anyone of any age or any race. But does hearing loss affect men and women equally? According to the latest research and surveys, yes. This data shows that more men than women are affected by hearing loss—with rates of hearing loss being nearly twice as high in men than in women.
Although no one knows all of the reasons why men experience hearing loss more frequently than women, audiologists have hypothesized a few explanations for this difference. Here are some reasons men may experience hearing loss more than women:

  • Workplace noise

Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is a common type of hearing loss. One study found that men may experience NIHL at nearly three times the rate of women. Experts suggest this difference may be tied to workplace noise.
While careers and industries of all types are open to both men and women, some careers are male-dominated. These include several types of jobs that may have high levels of noise, such as military careers, construction sites, factory or manufacturing work, farming, flight crew, or emergency workers and first responders like policemen, firemen, and ambulance drivers.

  • Medication use

Certain medications, known as ototoxic medications, are known to cause hearing loss. It is believed that men use ototoxic medications at a higher rate than women, which exposes them to a higher risk of hearing loss. Ototoxic medications include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen, certain antibiotics, certain cancer drugs, and more.

  • Seeking help

Although men appear to experience hearing loss at a greater rate than women, both genders suffer from hearing loss. Another difference exists, however, in how men and women handle hearing loss. Women are more likely than men to seek professional care for their hearing loss.
In addition, women are often more willing to admit to their friends and family that they suffer from hearing loss. This can lead to better hearing solutions for living with hearing loss day-to-day, such as choosing restaurants with lower noise levels, friends and family speaking more clearly, and other accommodations for the person with hearing loss. Because women are more likely to seek treatment and ask for help, they typically experience fewer negative social effects and have a higher quality of life.

  • Differences in hearing loss

Another difference between men and women who experience hearing loss is how the hearing loss manifests itself. Men are more likely to lose the ability to hear higher frequencies first, while women are more likely to have difficulty hearing lower frequencies. While both of these issues can cause long-term problems, men may experience more negative social effects because they can hear fewer high-frequency sounds, including higher-pitched voices.
So, what does this mean for you? If you work in a noisy environment, be sure to use appropriate ear protection to avoid hearing loss. If you use ototoxic medications, speak to your doctor about whether another medication option is available that will not endanger your hearing. Men can also learn to better recognize the symptoms of hearing loss and seek professional treatment when necessary.
To learn more about how men and women experience hearing loss differently, we invite you to contact our hearing professional today.

Posted on Leave a comment

Is There A Connection Between Hearing Health And Heart Health Yes!

You may have heard the phrase, “Nothing happens in a vacuum,” before. But have you heard the entire quote? In full, the quote from Khaled Hosseini says, “Nothing happens in a vacuum in life: every action has a series of consequences, and sometimes it takes a long time to fully understand the consequences of our actions.” This thought applies to just about every action and choice in life—where you decide to go to school, who you choose as your friends, who you choose as your partner, and what you do at work every day.
However, have you ever applied this idea to your health? It remains true even there. Every part of your body and its health affects the rest of your body and your overall health. For example, if you injure your knee, you might not be able to run or cycle for a period of time. Without regular cardio exercise, you might gain weight. If it goes on long enough, this may even cause a decline in your cardiovascular health. In addition, if you favor one leg due to the injury, the other may develop additional strength to compensate for the weakness. A knee injury affects much more than only your knee.
All of that seems pretty easy to understand. What about when the link seems a little more complicated? At first glance, that may be the case when you hear that heart health and hearing health are connected. How could your heart affect how well you hear?
According to the latest research, it may all come down to blood flow. If your arteries are stiffened or narrowed (a condition called arteriosclerosis) due to high cholesterol, your blood flow will be constricted. High blood pressure (hypertension) can also damage blood vessels. Your hearing health also depends on blood flow. The delicate hair cells in the cochlea play an essential role in translating the noises your ears collect into electrical impulses that your brain can interpret as recognizable sounds. These hair cells depend on good circulation. Poor circulation can deprive these hair cells of the necessary oxygen, which leads to damage or destruction. Since these hair cells do not regenerate, the hearing damage is permanent.
Studies have confirmed that cardiovascular health is connected to hearing health. A study published in 2010 followed participants for 60 years. The findings showed that impaired cardiovascular health negatively impacts both the central and peripheral auditory systems, especially in older adults. Another analysis, published in 2017, found that cardiovascular disease and its risk factors (like high blood pressure) are associated with an increased risk of hearing loss.
Fortunately, studies have found some good news, too. Although sensorineural hearing loss is permanent, you may be able to preserve your remaining hearing through exercise, which can improve your cardiovascular health. A 2009 study conducted at Miami University discovered that participants with higher cardiovascular fitness levels (assessed by riding a stationary bicycle) had better hearing, particularly among those 50 and older. In 2017, a larger study found that people who were more physically active showed lower triglyceride levels. Since high triglyceride levels are associated with hearing loss, this is good news for those participants’ hearing health.
So, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that your hearing health is only affected by noise levels or other factors that may seem obvious. The truth is that your heart health impacts your hearing health, too. Adopting an exercise routine could improve both! To learn more about how you can protect your hearing health as well as your cardiovascular health, and for more information about how the two are connected, we invite you to contact our hearing practice today.

Posted on Leave a comment

Face Coverings Highlight Hearing Loss

The COVID-19 pandemic has given us all a new accessory to wear out in public: the face mask. Some people see the face mask as simply a tool to help prevent the spread of the virus. Others see it as a fashionable accessory that can be personalized to their tastes. And for some people, wearing a face covering has made hearing problems more obvious.
According to the Hearing Loss Association of America, approximately 48 million Americans have some degree of hearing loss. However, people with hearing loss wait an average of 7 years before seeking professional help. Many of these people use lip and speech reading to help them understand any words or phrases they could not hear well. They could also use facial expressions and cues to pick up on the overall message of the speaker. In short, these people with hearing loss would adapt as best they could until the problem became severe enough that they had no other option than to seek help.
In the age of COVID, however, people living with hearing loss can no longer rely on lip and speech reading or visual cues; these are all hidden by face coverings. Even transparent face masks can pose some degree of difficulty for those who read lips. In addition, wearing a face mask tends to muffle the volume of sound and affect the pitch range of speech, making it even more difficult for someone with hearing loss to understand what is being said.
While those with mild to moderate hearing loss could have hidden or ignored their condition for a period of time prior to COVID, in today’s environment, they can no longer “get by” with adaptations. Audiologists around the world have seen an increase in patient visits as people with hearing loss come to the realization that they must seek help in order to function in a world where everyone wears a face mask.
Even people who have previously sought professional help and now use hearing aids have found that they need additional help at this time. Hearing aid professionals have noted that many people who use hearing aids have come in for adjustments so they can better hear and understand people who speak while wearing a face mask. While they may have previously thought that their hearing aids worked well enough, the challenges posed by face masks have highlighted areas for improvement.
If you suspect that you may have hearing loss, or if you have noticed increasing difficulty in understanding speech when people are wearing face masks, we encourage you to visit your hearing healthcare professional. A simple hearing evaluation can determine whether you have hearing loss, and your hearing professional can recommend the treatment that is best for your specific needs and preferences.
If you already use hearing aids and still experience difficulty hearing while using a face mask, you can also benefit from speaking with a hearing aid professional. To learn more about how we can help you hear better, we invite you to contact our office today.

Posted on Leave a comment

Smartphone Apps That Support Hearing Aids— How To Know Which Ones Work Well

Have you ever heard the phrase, “There’s an app for that”? While this phrase was first used over a decade ago (Apple began using this slogan in their advertising in 2009), it has never been truer than it is now. You can download an app to your smartphone to do just about anything you want—to check the news, keep you updated on the weather in your area, chat with people halfway around the world, remind you to drink more water, do your banking right from your phone, keep an online journal, and much, much more.
So, what about when it comes to your hearing aids? Yes, there’s an app for that, too. There are, in fact, numerous smartphone apps now available that support hearing aids. How do you know which ones work well? Here are a few key features you might want to look for when you are considering apps to support your hearing aids:

  • Apps created by hearing aid manufacturers

Many hearing aid manufacturers now have their own apps. The app created by the manufacturer of your particular hearing aids might be one of the best for you to use. These apps are typically custom made to work seamlessly with your specific hearing aids. So, if you are new to using a smartphone app with your hearing aids, start by downloading and exploring the app made by your hearing aid manufacturer.

  • Adjust your hearing aids

If you wear hearing aids, chances are good that you’ve been in a situation before where your hearing aid settings weren’t quite right. An app allows you to adjust the treble, bass, volume, and other sound settings right from your phone. Not only is this incredibly simple, but it can also be more discreet than reaching up your ears to adjust your hearing aids.

  • Battery life notifications

Choosing an app that notifies you when your hearing aid batteries are low can allow you to recharge or replace the batteries before they die.

  • Direct audio connection

Using Bluetooth, apps allow your hearing aids to connect directly to audio. This means music, podcasts, TV shows, and more can stream directly to your hearing aids.

  • Custom hearing programs

As mentioned above, your hearing aids might need to be adjusted for certain settings. For example, maybe you always find it challenging to hear well when you go to a particular restaurant. Using your app, you can create a custom hearing program that you specify to this setting, and then you can save the program to use again when you visit in the future. The app may also save the information so you can share it with your audiologist, which can help them better understand the settings that offer challenges.

  • Statistics and location

An app can offer statistics regarding your hearing aids, such as how many hours you wore them per day, week, or month. The app may also track the location of your hearing aids, which can be helpful if you misplace your devices.

  • Hearing aid manual and instructions

One of the benefits of using an app created by the hearing aid manufacturer is the availability of the manual and instructions for your particular device. This might be especially helpful if your hearing aids are new to you. Plus, it is certainly more convenient to access the manual via your smartphone than to carry the manual around with you!

  • Communication with your hearing aid specialist

For almost a year now, many audiology practices have limited in-office appointments. Even if you cannot see your hearing care professional in person, or if you want to avoid the health risks of doing so, you can communicate with them via your hearing aid app. These apps allow your hearing healthcare specialist to conduct a hearing test, adjust your hearing aids, fit the hearing aid, and much more.
It may be hard to believe at first, but some hearing aid apps offer even more features than these! To learn more about how an app can help you control your hearing aids, we welcome you to contact our hearing care practice today.

Posted on Leave a comment

Hearing Aid Use in the U.S.—Increasing or Decreasing?

If you or a loved one uses hearing aids, you know that these devices can make a huge difference in your daily life. Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, not everyone who has hearing loss wears hearing aids. A new study has found some changes in the percentage of Americans who use hearing aids, and it’s a case of good news and bad news.
The study, which was published in the medical journal JAMA: Internal Medicine in December 2020, tracked hearing aid use among older American adults from 2011 to 2018. The overarching good news that was uncovered in this research is that hearing aid use among older American adults is increasing. Between 2011 and 2018, hearing aid use among a representative sample of American adults over the age of 70 increased from 15 percent to 18.5 percent.
While it is great news that overall hearing aid use is increasing, there was bad news as well. Hearing aid use did not increase as dramatically for older Black Americans—only a +0.8 percent change in seven years. Furthermore, hearing aid use did not increase at all among older adults living at less than 100 percent of the federal poverty level. In fact, hearing aid ownership actually dropped during this period from 12.4 percent to 10.8 percent. While this study did not look particularly at hearing aid use among older Hispanic Americans, other studies have found a similar disparity in hearing care.
There are several possible reasons for the disparity among minorities and lower-income adults. Systemic problems in healthcare lead to fewer minorities and low-income individuals having access to the care they need, including audiology and hearing loss services. When they do receive care, it is often delayed.
Even if these individuals have Medicaid or Medicare, they may not have access to the hearing healthcare they need. Medicaid hearing care depends on each state’s guidelines, while Medicare only partly covers hearing care. For many people in these minority and low-income groups, preventive care is limited or nonexistent. Hearing loss may go undiagnosed, and treatment may be out of reach due to cost and access. Stigma may also play a role among the percentage of the population who have hearing loss but do not use hearing aids.
For those with hearing loss (whether or not it has been diagnosed) who do not use hearing aids, the consequences can extend far beyond simply not being able to hear as well. Research has shown that untreated hearing loss is linked to an increased risk of depressionsocial isolationanxietyfallsdementia, and auditory processing problems. Because of the hearing loss treatment gap among minorities, experts expect dementia rates to increase disproportionately in minorities in the coming years.
What can be done to remedy this situation? First, be sure to have your hearing tested and follow your hearing specialist’s recommendations for treatment, including using hearing aids. If you have a loved one who you suspect may have untreated hearing loss, encourage them to have their hearing tested as well. Second, you can be part of ending the stigma surrounding hearing aid use. Never make fun of someone for using hearing aids or having a hearing loss. Instead, offer support and encouragement for seeking treatment.
Researchers are optimistic that a federal law passed in 2017 (that may go into effect in 2021) may help. This federal law makes hearing aids available over-the-counter, which could help many Americans gain access to hearing aids.
To learn more about hearing aid use in the United States or to schedule your appointment with our hearing specialist, we invite you to contact our practice today. We are here to assist you.