As an audiologist, it is likely that a high percentage of your clientele is made up of older adults with hearing loss. With your professional training and years of study and experience, you understand that many people experience hearing loss as they age. It may surprise you to learn, then, that many older adults do not access professional hearing care services, even if they use hearing aids.
According to a study recently released by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, a large portion of older adults has difficulty accessing hearing care services. The study, which used Medicare survey data, included 1,133 adults over the age of 65 with hearing aids. Only 442 of those individuals, or 39 percent, reported accessing hearing care services in the previous year.
The study also took into account the financial status of participants. Researchers found that older adults with low incomes who qualified for Medicaid were even less likely to access professional hearing services. Among the respondents, 27 percent of low-income individuals reported having difficulty hearing with their hearing aid. Contrast that with the higher income level—only 11 percent of respondents in the highest income category reported a lot of trouble hearing with their hearing aid.
In addition, 71 percent of the lowest-income hearing aid users reported that they had not received hearing care services in the prior year. Even among higher income categories, many hearing aid users did not access professional hearing services; only 58 percent of hearing aid users in the highest income category reported accessing hearing care services.
While over-the-counter sales of hearing aids will become available in 2020, researchers doubt that this alone will bring improved hearing care for older adults. This change may lower the cost of hearing devices, but it will do little to remove other barriers faced by those seeking professional hearing services. Because Medicare excludes coverage of hearing services, older adults can still face financial difficulties in accessing hearing care. These difficulties will remain to be felt most keenly among low-income older adults.
Because professional services are crucial in ensuring that hearing aids fit and work properly, it is essential that older adults have greater access to hearing care services. Even with easier access to hearing aids beginning in 2020, users will still require professional services to make certain that their devices are optimized.
Some people are calling on Medicare to remove hearing care exclusions, which would allow greater access to hearing services among older adults. This is especially important for lower-income individuals, who currently have limited access to professional help. With greater access to hearing care services, older adults would be more likely to seek help with their hearing aids, resulting in greater functioning of their devices and improved quality of life for the wearers.
To learn more about the implications of this study and how you can gain more patients who are in need of professional hearing services, we welcome you to contact AudiologyPlus today.