It may be difficult for patients to broach the topic of hearing loss with their doctors. They don’t know how, or when, to bring it up. And maybe they’re afraid that the doctor won’t take them seriously.
Given the concerns that many patients have, it’s imperative that practitioners are prepared for these difficult conversations. Because taking the first step is important. Being prepared to address your patient’s concerns is also important.
The Better Hearing Institute (BHI), the educational arm of the Hearing Industries Association (HIA), has released a digital flipbook for patients who may be wondering how to bring up the topic of hearing loss with their doctor and why it’s so important. Furthermore, it will help your patients be better-informed and more engaged in their treatment.
In this article, we’ll share the highlights, edited and adapted from the BHI website and booklet.
Untreated Hearing Loss
According to BHI research, three out of four adult physical exams don’t include a screening for hearing problems. So this means that the onus is on the patient to make their doctor aware of hearing issues. Why is it important? Because hearing loss may signal other serious health issues that include:
- Cardiovascular Disease
- Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) – Having moderate CKD may predispose you to hearing loss.
- Falling – Patients with hearing loss have a risk of falling that’s three times greater than those without hearing loss.
- Mortality – Older men with hearing loss have a greater risk of dying.
- Hospitalization – Older adults with hearing loss are 32% more likely to end up in the hospital.
- Diabetes – Diabetic patients have a two-fold risk of losing their hearing than non-diabetics.
- Alzheimer’s and Dementia – These disorders may be up to five times higher in people with hearing loss.
- Depression – When symptoms of hearing loss are treated, quality of life increases, and patients are less likely to suffer from depression.
Starting the Conversation
Bringing up the topic of hearing loss is just as important as providing your doctor with the correct information. Be as thorough as possible. Giving your doctor all the information will help him/her recommend the best treatment plan. Here’s a list of pertinent topics:
- Do you have regular exposure to loud noise like concerts, sporting events, hunting, headphone usage, etc…as part of your job or leisure activities?
- Medications that you’re currently taking or have taken in the past. Some medications are known to increase the risk of hearing loss.
- Underlying health conditions like diabetes or kidney disease, which may increase the likelihood that hearing loss could occur.
- A family history of hearing loss.
Once you and your doctor have discussed background information, what’s next? It’s likely that you’ll need to receive a hearing evaluation to determine the degree, if any, and cause of hearing loss.
You can come prepared to your exam by completing a free BHI Hearing Check online. Bring the results with you to your exam.
Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor for a referral to a hearing care specialist, who may be better able to evaluate your hearing loss. Ask that doctor to share your evaluation with your primary care provider. As a result, your treatment plan will be more comprehensive. Furthermore, your primary doctor will be able to fill in your specialist with any background information relevant to your treatment plan.
The only obstacle remaining to a patient taking control of their hearing loss is cost. Offer your patients the option of using CareCredit to finance exams or the cost of a treatment plan. As a result, this gives them one more reason to be proactive about their hearing health!