- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 17, 2017

QUINCY, Ill. (AP) - With the New Year, many set out to change the path of their lives by making resolutions.

While many resolutions focus on bettering one’s health, there is an often overlooked aspect of well-being that could prove particularly detrimental if not corrected — hearing health.

“There is still a social stigma, but it’s getting better. People still think hearing aids make them look old,” said Donald Meyer, specialist with the 21st Century Hearing Center. “We have to get over that.”

Those experiencing hearing loss may feel less inclined to seek a solution for fear that the hearing aid may be noticeable, but the devices, Meyer said, have become increasingly smaller and less visible during the last two decades.

“I always contend that the hearing loss is more noticeable than the hearing aids,” Meyer said. “Sometimes the family members and the friends notice it before the individual.”

Negatively impacted relationships may be a major outcome of one’s refusal to seek help for hearing loss. On a more physiological level, Johns Hopkins and the National Institute on Aging discovered a link between compromised hearing and dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

“Although the brain becomes smaller with age, the shrinkage seems to be fast-tracked in older adults with hearing loss,” said a Johns Hopkins news release discussing the 2011 study. “The findings add to a growing list of health consequences associated with hearing loss, including increased risk of dementia … and mental health overall.”

Meyer described hearing as a fundamental aspect of communication. Without the ability, a person easily can become isolated, which itself may lead to a host of other health problems.

“People are also at an increased risk of falling, because they are less aware of their surroundings,” Meyer said. “There are multiple damaging effects.”

With so many indicators pointing to the importance of seeking help, some still remain hesitant. Many can be deterred by the expense associated with obtaining hearing aids.

“You can get a single hearing aid for $600,” Meyer said. “I think everyone can afford a hearing aid. The Medicaid program pays for hearing aids. There are payment plans on hearing instruments if they (patients) have credit.”

As with most products, Meyer said, hearing aids come at varying price points with newer technologies priced higher than those considered “entry-level.”

“If you look at $4,700 a pair, that might put somebody off. If you look at $2,000 a pair and financing $28 a month, that might be more appealing,” Meyer said. “How many things will you buy that you will use every day?”

Meyer hopes people will get past their reservations in seeking help. He said what is needed is better education on the importance of getting help for hearing and getting beyond misconceptions.

“People don’t need one, or two, or three more things that would keep them from getting it,” Meyer said. “It’s not so much an elective. The longer the patient waits, the more difficult it is to regain the ability to understand speech.”

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Source: The Quincy Herald-Whig, https://bit.ly/2j2Mxp6

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Information from: The Quincy Herald-Whig, https://www.whig.com

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