Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recently released a study showing that hearing loss is the third most common chronic condition in the United States – making it even more prevalent than diabetes or cancer. Even more surprising is that only 14% of physicians routinely screen for hearing loss during a physical exam.
Why is hearing health neglected? While some patients with hearing loss are very open about their condition, others may try to hide their condition due to the stigma surrounding hearing loss. Ageism, vanity, and denial all contribute to the problem, making the stigma tough to combat.
Additionally, some physicians still believe that hearing loss is just a natural part of aging, so they don’t regularly screen or recommend treatment for it. Fortunately, this attitude is changing among many family doctors.
Proactive Hearing Screenings
By the time Americans reach the age of 65, one in three will suffer from some form of hearing loss. Since hearing loss often occurs gradually, routine hearing tests should be included in any adult’s health care maintenance.
Professionally administered hearing screenings, often offered free by hearing clinics, are the best way to benchmark your hearing and catch any sudden or gradual changes over time.
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)
Patients diagnosed with these conditions should discuss any changes they notice in their hearing with their family doctors and have regular hearing screenings.
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.
If you believe you have hearing loss but your doctor does not recommend regular screenings, you should take the initiative and be tested. While hearing aids won’t be able to restore your hearing to perfect levels, most patients do experience significant improvement, enhancing their overall enjoyment of life.