With advancing age comes increased vulnerability to health complications, accidents, and injuries. There are measures one can take, however, to mitigate some of those risks. A recent study published in JAMA Otolaryngology revealed an increase of hospital visits by those who need hearing aids but do not wear them, compared to hearing aid wearers.
Those who do wear hearing aids are less likely to visit the hospital, and when they do they spend less time admitted. This is a worrisome statistic because only 45% of all seniors with severe hearing loss actually use a hearing aid.
Why do so few seniors wear hearing aids? There may be several reasons. Perhaps one of the most concerning though is the fact that Medicare does not currently reimburse for the cost of hearing aids. Hearing aids can be expensive, too expensive for seniors on a tightly fixed income. There is legislation in Congress aimed at fixing this Medicare flaw, but as it stands now, the lack of coverage may be a big contributor to the low use of hearing aids by seniors.
Other reasons for low hearing aid usage may include a personal resistance to the device. Seniors may be concerned about potential social stigmas surrounding the use of hearing aids since it’s an obvious sign of a disability that’s not easily hidden. They also may find hearing aids to be uncomfortable, especially if they can only afford more basic, older versions that aren’t as efficient as newer, smaller models.
The Importance Of Wearing Hearing Aids
Regardless of the reasons behind the statistic, the importance of wearing hearing aids cannot be overstated. Hearing aids reduce the risk of injury, accidents, and even worse, hospitalization. Not to mention, hearing aids improve one’s quality of life, helping those advancing in age to avoid a sense of isolation that moderate to severe hearing loss can bring about.
Hearing aids also reduce the rate of cognitive decline since auditory processing and cognitive function are so closely connected. For seniors still working or volunteering their time, a hearing aid can help guarantee solid performance in a professional setting.
Those who wear hearing aids may be more proactive about their health or may have a better health support network. According to the same study published in JAMA Otolaryngology, senior citizens who wear hearing aids are more likely to have visited the doctor in the past year than those who do not wear hearing aids.
Programs That Help
So while not wearing a hearing aid may not bear significant impacts on a daily basis, the overall health disadvantage is evident. While efforts are being made in Congress to solve the Medicare lack of reimbursement issue, there are some programs available to help with hearing aid costs.
Many veterans can qualify for assistance with hearing aids through the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. Other states have hearing aid banks where qualifying individuals can receive financial assistance to purchase a hearing aid. For more information on services and assistance available in your area, give our hearing healthcare professionals a call today.