Diagnosis and Treatment of Hearing Loss
By Amanda Mravec, AuD, CCC-A
An estimated 36 million people in the United States report difficulty hearing, which is around 10% of the population. While popular opinion leads one to believe that hearing loss primarily affects older Americans, the impairment is seen across generations. More than half of people with hearing loss are younger than age 65.
Sixty percent of individuals with hearing loss are in the workplace. Data indicates people with untreated hearing loss can lose as much as $30,000 annually in salary and wages and have increased rates of unemployment as compared to their peers with normal hearing or to their peers that wear hearing aids.
Reports conclude there is an increased rate of hearing loss seen in teenagers, suggesting that 1 in 5 teens has some form of hearing loss. This is about 30% higher than it was in the 1980s and 1990s. Many experts believe this may be due, in part, to the increased use of headphones.
Many people with hearing impairments hear well in a quiet environment like a medical office, making it virtually impossible for medical providers to recognize the extent of the problem. Only 9% of internists offer hearing testing to patients 65 years or older. Only about 15% of physicians perform any form of testing during a patient’s annual physical exam, including asking the patient, “How’s your hearing?”
What are the consequences of untreated hearing loss?
Untreated hearing loss can have a far reaching and devastating impact. Hearing loss is not a benign condition. Hearing loss is related to several medical co-morbidities including:
Studies have shown that untreated hearing loss is linked to:
When should you refer a patient to an audiology clinic?
Referral to an audiologist is recommended if your patient describes:
Frequently, hearing sensitivity changes gradually, and individuals compensate for the decreased hearing with other available cues. Hearing loss often goes unnoticed until it is affecting your patient’s quality of life. Therefore, even if your patients aren’t complaining about their hearing, consider referring any patient over the age of 40 for a baseline hearing test as part of their overall health and wellness plan. A hearing test is typically scheduled as a 30-minute appointment and is a painless, easy experience for almost all patients.
Audiologists are trained to diagnose, treat and monitor disorders of the hearing and balance system. Services include:
What your patient should know about hearing aids
Today’s marketplace offers several avenues for patients to be fit with hearing aids. Locations, ranging from ENT affiliated clinics, private audiology practices, franchise offices and even big box stores, vary in the devices and options that they offer.
Choosing a hearing aid professional is one of the most significant decisions a patient will make. The hearing aid selection and fitting process is highly dependent on the skills and judgment of the professional. Today’s advances in technology have created many solutions to treat hearing loss and communication difficulties. When hearing aid recommendations are made, it is done with a number of factors involved. Considerations include the degree of hearing loss, lifestyle needs, physical capabilities, cosmetic preferences and ease of use. When fitting the pediatric patient, speech and language development and educational implications are also considered.
For More Information
UW Health offers a full complement of audiologic services for pediatric and adults at three Madison locations. Our audiologists are licensed by the State of Wisconsin Department of Safety & Professional Services and hold doctorate of Audiology (AuD) or Master’s degree training. Our audiologists maintain Certification of Clinical Competence in Audiology (CCC-A) from the American Speech Language Hearing Association (ASHA). Visit UW Health Audiology for more about conditions, providers and contact information.
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American Osteopathic Association, Hearing Loss & Headphones: Is Anyone Listening?