JAMA policy viewpoint on hearing aids
Ellen Lafargue, audiologist
If you follow our blog or e-newsletter, you know that we frequently write about the risks of untreated hearing loss to the health and safety of older adults.
I’m pleased to report that the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) this month includes an opinion piece on the public’s need for greater access to hearing aids. It’s a compelling argument that considers the growing body of industry research as well as the findings published by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST).
Click here if you’d like to read the JAMA hearing aid viewpoint. It’s a bit technical, so I’ve provided a summary of key points below.
Untreated hearing loss puts seniors at risk
Why are JAMA and PCAST concerned about the hearing health of seniors? Because, as JAMA reports, scientific studies show:
Untreated hearing loss is associated with a three-fold increase in falls
The risk of dementia doubles for mild, untreated hearing loss; triples for moderate, untreated hearing loss; and is five times higher for severe hearing loss
Delaying treatment for hearing impairment makes it more difficult, if not impossible, to gain back a level of hearing close to the previous level (due to changes that take place in the brain)
Hearing impairment is associated with frailty and dependency, which are threats to dignity and quality of life
Frailty and dependency lead to medical costs and additional related costs of care
Barriers to hearing aid usage
With so many benefits associated with the use of hearing aids, why are people seemingly uninterested in wearing them? Only one in five Americans with a significant hearing loss actually uses a hearing aid. JAMA and PCAST report these barriers to treatment:
Lack of interest from physicians who often dismiss hearing loss as a normal part of aging rather than a health condition requiring ongoing care and treatment
The cost of hearing aids, which typically are not covered by government or private insurance plans
FDA regulations, which often require that a person receive a medical examination before being fit with a hearing aid
Recommended JAMA hearing aid policy changes (consistent with those of PCAST) would seek to empower consumers in their options for hearing health care and “increase the availability of hearing technology to the millions of people who could benefit from it.” Among the actions proposed are changes in FDA regulations, new research to validate the importance of hearing screening for adults 50+, and the development of more standardized prescriptions that consumers could use to compare products and find the best value for their needs.
CHC cares about adults 50+
Jeff Wax, LCSW-R, Seniors Workshop
I applaud the President’s Council for its focus on creating greater access to hearing aids and appreciate JAMA’s desire for more effective educational outreach to physicians and the public about the enormously serious consequences of failing to treat hearing loss with hearing aids.
CHC established the Center for Hearing and Aging, in part, to serve as a means of educating heath care professionals, caregivers and seniors about the dangers of untreated hearing loss. The response by the medical community has been overwhelmingly positive, and we are thrilled to have established, in three short years, ties with many of the top health care facilities in New York City.
CHC makes hearing technology more affordable
We’re also pleased to offer consumers acoustic devices in a variety of price ranges to encourage people with hearing loss to seek the treatment they need.
CHC in New York is currently offering a 10% discount of the purchase of any pair of hearing aids
Starting in March ’16, HLAA members receive an additional 5% discount on the purchase of hearing aids at CHC
Personal sound amplification products (PSAPs) are an alternative to hearing aids that are very reasonably priced ($350 including our fitting/dispensing fee)
We can help in so many ways
At CHC, we know that effective treatment of hearing loss often entails more than just the fitting of hearing aids. Our multidisciplinary approach to hearing health care ensures that seniors get the support they need to hear and communicate with confidence as well as cope with life’s difficult challenges. That means:
CHC audiologists offer thorough and unhurried instruction on the proper use and maintenance of hearing aids (for seniors as well as everybody else)
Speech-language pathologists offer innovative therapies to help seniors maximize their ability to hear and participate in daily conversation
Social workers provide guidance and a shoulder to lean on when life’s challenges become overwhelming
You’re encouraged to take advantage of our uniquely talented, multidisciplinary team who can help determine what services and support would be most helpful to you or a loved one.
As always, I will keep you up to date on hearing and health news that I think is important for you and your family to be aware of, whether they are developments at CHC or within the industry at large.
Hear and be well!