Critter Corner: Can the Dangerous Consequences of Hearing Loss be Lessened by OTC Hearing Aids?

Dear Magic,

My daughters and I suspect that my wife is experiencing hearing loss, but hearing aids are so expensive. I heard something about legislation that passed making them available over the counter. Is this true, and if so, do you know when this will start? Also, is it true that untreated hearing loss can increase the risk of dementia? Thanks!

Heerin Laws

Dear Heerin,

You are correct that an act was passed recently to make hearing aids less expensive and more accessible to patients with mild-to-moderate hearing loss. The Over-the-Counter (OTC) Hearing Aid Act was passed in August 2017 and is likely to be enacted as early as this year!

Since the act was passed, the Food and Drug Administration has been composing updated regulations to assure the safety of these products, and as soon as it is complete, the OTC hearing aids will become widely available for purchase without a doctor’s prescription. This will be a step in the right direction to help people who cannot afford to pay the high price of hearing aids, and to make them accessible to more people.

Dementia and Hearing Loss

Many people are surprised to discover that hearing loss can actually cause more problems than we realize. Johns Hopkins followed 639 adults for almost 12 years and discovered that people with mild hearing loss had double the dementia risk; those with moderate hearing loss had triple the risk; and those with severe hearing impairment were five times more likely to develop dementia. This should be a wake-up call to anyone who chooses to ignore their hearing problems.

Why Does Hearing Loss Contribute to Dementia?

According to the research at Johns Hopkins, “brain scans show us that hearing loss may contribute to a faster rate of atrophy in the brain.” In addition, hearing loss cause social isolation, and social interaction is a very important tool in preventing or slowing down the development of dementia.

Can Hearing Aids Make a Difference?

The researchers at Johns Hopkins are in the process of studying whether the use of hearing aids can reduce the risk of dementia. Whether or not they do, hearing aids benefit the majority of people who use them as they make it easier to stay engaged with friends and family.

It would be wise for your wife to see a doctor and get checked. Hopefully the OTC hearing aids will be available sooner rather than later!

Hop this helps!

Magic

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