With hearing loss in America approaching what medical researchers say may be epidemic proportions, a hearing care executive says hearing care shoud be recognized as a medical necessity.
“Even mild hearing loss, left untreated, can impair communication and negatively impact social and family relationships, job performance, and health and safety,” said Stephen Hansbrough, CEO of HearUSA, West Palm Beach, Fla.
He said studies show that untreated hearing loss, which has been linked to depression, loneliness, reduced alertness, and stress and can put personal safety and overall health at risk, is also costing billions of dollars in lost earnings.
While hearing aids can treat 95% of all hearing loss, Hansbrough said they are used by only one in four of the 36 million Americans with hearing loss.
He said that while cost was a major factor, other barriers to greater use of hearing aids were stigma (which is fading), unfamiliarity with today’s state-of-the-art hearing aids technology, and lack of trust and confidence in an often-confusing hearing aid marketplace.
“Acceptance of hearing care as a medical necessity would enable millions suffering from untreated hearing loss to receive hearing aids and support services from qualified, credentialed providers,” said Hansbrough.
“Hearing care must be made more affordable, accessible and consistent,” he said, reaffirming HearUSA’s support for the hearing aids tax credit legislation pending in the House and the Senate.
According to a study conducted by Johns Hopkins University researchers and published in the Archives of Internal Medicine: “Hearing loss is a societal problem. It is known to be highly prevalent and the costs of increased needs and diminished autonomy associated with hearing loss are shared by society.”
The study concluded that “the prevalence of hearing loss is predicted to rise significantly because of an aging population and the growing use of personal hearing devices. Indeed, we may be facing an epidemic of hearing impairment.”
In its landmark study, The Impact of Untreated Hearing Loss on Household Income, The Better Hearing Institute (BHI) estimated that the annual cost in lost earnings due to untreated hearing loss was $122 billion, with the Federal government losing $18 billion in taxes.
The BHI also reports that America’s hearing loss population is growing at a rate of 160% of the overall population growth.
HearUSA operates a network of more than 2,000 hearing care providers and 178 company-owned centers. It is also the administrator of the AARP Hearing Care program.