As reported recently by AZ Central, it may not be long before hearing aids are available to purchase over the counter. However, this may not be a good thing. Here in Arizona, the Arizona Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing have been fighting this legislation, they believe it will do more harm than good.
According to Michele Michaels, a specialist with the commission, “Most of the stakeholders in this debate, our goal is the same: we want to increase access to hearing health care, and we want to increase the affordability of it. But this is not the way to go.”
In order to understand why, let’s take a look first at the intricacies of hearing loss, and then the medical care provided by an audiologist.
Hearing loss affects about 20% of US Americans, with the most concentrated cases found in adults over the age of 65. As the third most common medical condition, hearing loss is actually undertreated nationwide. In part, hearing loss is a gradual condition, which means it may take several years before a person identifies that their experience is hearing loss. In the meantime, while living with untreated hearing loss, we tend to accommodate by turning up the volume, asking people to repeat themselves, or avoiding social interactions.
Though we’ve become a culture of Internet researchers who turn to websites such as WebMD or Mayo Clinic to research our physical conditions, the reality is that hearing loss tends to fly under the radar. Its negative effects permeate into many different areas of our lives before we even think that it may be an issue. Hearing loss has been linked to conditions such as dementia, heart disease, and diabetes, as well as an increased risk of falls, accidents, and hospitalizations.
It is important to understand that hearing loss is a medical condition and thus, it is best to seek professional medical care. Audiologists are licensed medical professionals who are trained and certified to address the many different medical aspects of hearing loss.
Though you may think it’s as easy as popping into a pharmacy and trying on a few pairs of hearing aids, the reality is, hearing loss is not that simple.
To identify and treat hearing loss, audiologists provide a series of hearing tests and a qualified medical opinion on hearing health and treatment. From the intake interview to the hearing test to analysis of your results, audiologists make decisions and recommendations for treatment based on hearing ability and need. Conversely, purchasing hearing aids over the counter are solely about the sale and profit for dispensaries and pharmacies, rather than actually identifying the core issues of your hearing loss and thus, for your overall health.
According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), “Hearing and balance disorders are complex with medical, psychological, physical, social, educational, and employment implications.”
With extensive education in the medical science of hearing, balance, and related disorders, audiologists are trained to identify, diagnose, and provide treatment for hearing loss, balance disorders, and other auditory disorders. They are prepared to address any other related medical issues that may arise and minimize the negative impacts of hearing loss and related disorders that may develop.
Furthermore, beyond the qualifications of your audiologist, it is important to reiterate again that your hearing health is very much a medical concern. Treating hearing loss should not be regarded as something as simple as buying aspirin over the counter for a headache. And, as our hearing abilities are constantly changing, it is important to make sure that you are treating it with the most up-to-date technology.
As an invisible condition, hearing loss affects many areas of your life. You may find that your most important relationships are suffering due to problems with communication. You may find that lately, you are avoiding your favorite activities or hobbies. Hearing loss is a very isolating condition, if it is left untreated. That being said, the way in which it is treated is paramount.
If you believe you are experiencing a hearing loss, it’s important to visit us at Arizona Balance and Hearing Aids. Our audiologists are trained to provide comprehensive tests and identify and treat a hearing loss if it is detected. With hearing aid fittings, we will work with you to customize the device to meet your specific hearing needs. Because hearing is a highly personal experience, it is important to seek treatment that is personalized – not generic.
For more information on hearing aids and hearing loss, contact us at Arizona Balance and Hearing Aids. Our friendly team of audiologists is here for you.