CONTEST NOTE: The magic random number generator has spoken and selected three readers as winners of the book, Seven Ways to Lighten Your Life Before You Kick the Bucket that was offered on Wednesday.
As in merry old England where authors George and Walt tell us it originated, let's have a "tucket" - TA-DA - for the names of those winners:
• Vicki Hornus
• momcat christi
• Norma Hall
Congratulations to all three of you. Please click the “Contact” link at the top of this page and send me your postal addresses. I will get the books off to you as quickly as possible.
If I do not receive your email by Monday 21 March 2016 at 12 noon Pacific Daylight Time, another winner will be chosen.
Remember that annoying Verizon commercial from a few years ago – Can you hear me now? For millions of elders in the United States, crappy cell phone reception is not the problem - it is their hearing itself.
According to a 2013 study, hearing loss affects 30 percent of the entire American population and numbers are much higher for elders. In fact, after hypertension and arthritis, hearing loss is the third most common chronic condition among old people. It affects
• More than 40% of people age 60 and older
• More than 60% of those 70 and older
• Almost 80% of those age 80 and older
Obviously, this is a case of if you live long enough, you will probably have trouble hearing.
There are many causes of hearing loss, some that are medically treatable and some not. But today, we're talking about hearing aids.
(If you want some fairly in-depth medical information about hearing loss, two good resources are a regularly updated section at The New York Times and the hearing loss section at the National Institutes of Health website.)
Four years ago, it was reported (emphasis is mine) that
”Of the 26.7 million people over age 50 with a hearing impairment, only one in seven, a meager 14 percent, use a hearing aid, said Dr. Frank Lin, assistant professor of otolaryngology and epidemiology at Johns Hopkins University.
There are a lot of reasons so few people use hearing aids ranging from denial of hearing loss to vanity to annoying feedback noises to physical discomfort and for those who own them but don't use them, the fit may be irritating or the many adjustment visits are not perceived as worth the effort.
Resistance to hearing aids is high but the number one reason for not using them is price and no wonder. As the Center for Medicare Advocacy reported two years ago, the average price of one hearing aid was $2,363 and most people require two.
With a physician's referral, Medicare will pay for a diagnostic visit to an audiologist but the 1965 law specifically prohibits Medicare from paying for hearing aids themselves even though uncorrected hearing loss leads to host of other, serious medical problems.
People with hearing loss report more frequent falls (ears play a role in ability to balance). There is an increased incidence of depression, accelerated rates of cognitive decline and those with untreated hearing loss are more likely than those with normal hearing to develop dementia. In addition, as The Times recently reported,
”...hearing loss may lead to changes in brain structure. In one of Dr. Lin’s studies, magnetic resonance imaging tests showed greater brain atrophy among those with poor hearing.
“A struggle to hear can also lead to isolation, and 'we’ve known for years that social connectedness is important for cognitive health,' Dr. Lin added.”
Recently, there has been some movement toward rectifying these problems. Last fall, President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) sent a letter with recommendations to President Barack Obama:
”The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) should enable a hearing-aid prescription process similar to what is available for eyeglasses and contact lenses, giving consumers a greater diversity of choices and the opportunity to shop around without being locked into the cost of a particular device or service.
“The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) should create a new category for 'basic' hearing aids and associated hearing tests that are meant for sale over-the-counter. This would allow entrepreneurs and innovators to enter the market and open a space for creative solutions to improve mild-to-moderate, age-related hearing loss with devices that can be sold widely, allowing consumers to buy a basic hearing aid at the local pharmacy, online, or at a retail store for significantly less.
“The FDA should rescind its previous draft guidance about Personal Sound Amplification Products and allow these devices to make truthful claims about capabilities like improving hearing or understanding in situations where environmental noise or crowded rooms might interfere with speech intelligibility.”
The F.D.A., has acted on those recommendations and will hold a public workshop in April next month to consider, as The Times reports, whether its hearing aid regulations 'may hinder innovation, reduce competition and lead to increased cost and reduced use.'”
Hearings and recommendations are not change and government works, as we know, at a glacial pace but according to that Times story, it is already well known that hearing aids don't need to cost as much as the public is paying:
The Department of Veterans Affairs, which negotiates with manufacturers for lower prices, provided comprehensive hearing care to more than 900,000 veterans in 2014 and dispensed almost 800,000 hearing aids without copays. The average cost per device: $400.”