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Audiologists Raise Concerns About Delayed, Untreated Hearing Loss


Monday, April 12, 2021   

DENVER -- Audiologists and hearing specialists urge people to keep up with their hearing health as the pandemic continues.

Jamie Walter, assistant director of audiology at Advantage ENT and Audiology in Wheat Ridge, said recent research has shown untreated hearing loss, especially in older people, can lead to social isolation and loneliness, and can affect brain health and overall quality of life.

She said in her practice, she has seen quite a few hearing-loss patients.

"I think people, over the pandemic, relied a lot on technology for communication and started to, a lot of times, notice their hearing loss a little bit more," Walter explained. "So, we are starting to see a lot of patients in the office, but still taking those precautions."

The precautions include wearing masks, keeping patients out of waiting rooms and sanitizing equipment.

Walter pointed out hearing aid technology has come far in recent years. Hearing aids can stream phone calls or TV, and she noted connecting is all the more important as people spend more time at home.

Walter said mask-wearing and social-distancing, while helping to curb the spread of the coronavirus, do pose some difficulties for people with hearing loss. And for anyone with hearing aids, sometimes pulling off a mask can pull the device along with it.

"Really all of us, and especially people with hearing loss, rely on visual cues and lip-reading to kind of help piece things together; use those contextual clues," Walter observed.

She noted hearing specialists might have masks with clear panels in the front that people can request during appointments.

Diane Nens, audiologist and senior clinical director for UnitedHealthcare Hearing, is concerned some people with hearing loss may be delaying treatment to avoid possible COVID-19 exposure.

"We really want to offer online resources that people can tap into if they're trying to reduce their in-person appointments," Nens emphasized.

One of those resources is UnitedHealthcare's "Right2You" which provides online hearing tests. It also can help people purchase hearing aids, and have them home-delivered and adjusted through telemedicine.

Disclosure: United Healthcare contributes to our fund for reporting on Health Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

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