Why do so many people who know their hearing is getting worse fail to seek treatment? That question screams from the remarkable survey results just released by AARP and the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASLH).
There are a number of answers, but according to the survey, the high cost of hearing aids and inadequate insurance coverage for hearing-loss treatment (or lack of health insurance entirely) are high on the list of reasons people don’t seek out help for their hearing problems.
Check out some of the results of the survey of AARP members:
- While 88 percent said they had their vision tested in the past five years, less than half that number, 43 percent, had their hearing checked.
- But in the same period, nearly half (46 percent) said their hearing has gotten worse, with 61 percent saying they have difficulty following conversations in noisy situations.
- And even though 85 percent said maintaining hearing health is of great importance to them personally, 57 percent of respondents with hearing difficulties said they are not seeking treatment.
- Why do they fail to seek treatment? Here’s the kicker: “Nearly two-thirds of poll respondents (63 percent) cite health insurance coverage limitations, concerns about cost, and lack of health insurance as reasons for not getting treatment for hearing difficulties.”
AARP is the world’s biggest organization for people over the age of 50, and when it zeroes in on an issue it can move mountains. What would happen if AARP got on the hearing-loss bandwagon in a big way? Would we see more insurance companies providing coverage for hearing aids? Would we see more pressure on hearing-aid manufacturers to provide more affordable solutions?
Unfortunately, there may be an even bigger problem than high costs and lack of insurance coverage for the failure of people to seek out help. The survey also reveals there’s still a tremendous fear of the stigma that, rightly or wrongly, so many people associate with hearing loss. When you read the full report on the results (click here to download the PDF), you see too many troubling mentions of survey respondents wanting to “cover up” evidence of their hearing loss:
Fifty-seven percent of those with untreated hearing problems say their problems don’t warrant treatment and are easy enough to “cover up.” The foremost reason for not seeking treatment is a perception that their hearing issue isn’t severe enough – that they are getting by without treatment. They seem to have found ways that they believe cover up their hearing issues, and do not see a connection to an improved quality of life that treatment may provide.
Maybe the best result of the AARP focus on the hearing-loss issue will be a reduction in the stigma associated with hearing aids and a greater acceptance by the over-50 Baby Boomer set of the notion that a little help with their hearing could go a long way. But I’m not holding my breath!