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May is Better Hearing and Speech Month

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Educate patients of all ages about hearing loss and prevention

Hearing loss affects 48 million people in the United States, according to the Center for Hearing and Communication (CHC). It can occur at any age—4 out of every 1,000 newborns and 1 in 3 people over age 65 suffer from hearing loss. Treatment options vary depending on the type of hearing loss, age of onset, and other factors. A comprehensive exam with a specialist is the best way to diagnose hearing loss and decide on the right path to treatment.

Here are some facts, tips, and resources to share with your patients and encourage them to schedule hearing exams. 

Hearing loss and screening in infants and children

As many as 3 million children under the age of 18 have some hearing loss. Consider posting this video on your practice homepage or social media pages to raise awareness. Parents and caregivers need to know that hearing loss can increase the risk of speech and language developmental delays.

While 1 in 4 parents have had concerns about their child’s ability to communicate, 27%  did not seek help because they didn’t know where to go.

According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), 1 in 4 parents have had concerns about their child’s ability to communicate, but more than a quarter (27 percent) of concerned parents did not seek help for their child because they didn’t know where to go.

Encourage parents to be watchful for signs of hearing loss in their child. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), in babies these include:

  • Does not startle at loud noises.
  • Does not turn to the source of a sound after 6 months of age.
  • Does not say single words, such as “dada” or “mama” by 1 year of age.
  • Seems to hear some sounds but not others.

While most newborns have their hearing screened while still in the hospital, it’s important that all babies are screened before 1 month old, and if they do not pass the screening to get a full hearing test no later than 3 months old.

In children, signs of hearing loss include:

  • Delayed speech.
  • Unclear speech.
  • Turning the volume up too high on the TV or other devices.
  • Not following directions.

The CDC recommends that children have their hearing screened regularly, including when they start school, at least once at ages 6, 8, and 10, and once during middle school and high school. Given the COVID-19 pandemic and the switch to distance learning, it’s possible that many children have not received school hearing screenings—all the more reason to raise awareness among your patients and encourage routine screening.

For more on this topic, read our post Why Back-to-School Vision and Hearing Exams Are Vital.

The health risks of hearing loss in older adults

Studies have shown that by age 55, 1 in 5 adults has hearing loss, and by age 65 almost 1 in 3 suffers from hearing loss. Good hearing is required to stay engaged and connected with loved ones and coworkers and to maintain independence. Sharing this video with your older patients can help raise awareness of hearing loss and encourage them to seek treatment.

Callout: Untreated hearing loss—which affects 1 in 3 people over age 65—carries a greater risk of depression, dementia, heart attack, and falls in seniors. 

A recent report found that untreated hearing loss is associated with a greater risk of dementia, heart attack, and falls. It can also be linked to depression and isolation in seniors—even more of a risk in this time of COVID-19. While two-thirds of people over 70 suffer from hearing loss, just 20 percent use hearing aids. And the average person waits seven years from the time they notice signs of hearing loss to when they seek treatment.

“To me the message from this research is: Get your hearing tested,” said Charlotte Yeh, chief medical officer for AARP Services Inc.

The need for education and prevention

Education about hearing loss is paramount to overcoming ignorance and inaction. Here are some sobering statistics from the CHC to share with patients:

  • Noise is one of the leading causes of hearing loss.
  • Noise-induced hearing loss is preventable—but permanent.
  • Listening to music on a smartphone at high volumes over time can cause permanent damage to hearing.

This video is a great way to help patients visualize how loud noises can damage the tiny cells in their ears, and give them easy, preventive tips such as the 60/60 rule for wearing headphones: don’t go over 60 percent volume, and give your ears a rest every 60 minutes. 

 

View Video
 

Discover how engaging pediatric patients and families can drive your practice’s growth and bolster patient retention rates for years to come. Download our free guide: Mastering Pediatric Appointments: A Guide for ENT Doctors.
 
 
 

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