Does it seem like people are mumbling when they talk to you? Do you turn up the volume on the TV more than before? Do you shy away from conversations, especially in noisy settings?
These may be signs of hearing loss — and you’re not alone in experiencing them. Hearing loss is a common issue for which there are increasing options for help.
RELATED: Use this online hearing exam to determine if you may have hearing loss.
“You should take action as soon as you notice your hearing changing,” said Claire Collord Johnson, a doctor of audiology with UnitedHealthcare Hearing. “Choosing to wear hearing aids sooner rather than later can help your ears and brain adapt to the reintroduction of lost sounds more effectively.”
Seeking testing and necessary treatment may also help you to stay connected with friends and family and lower the risk of other associated health issues like cognitive decline, depression and balance problems.
By the numbers: Hearing loss affects as many as 48 million people in the U.S. and millions more worldwide. Approximately a third of people between the ages of 64 and 75 experience hearing loss. Nearly half of people over 75 deal with it.
“Unlike a broken bone, hearing loss does not resolve on its own and generally worsens over time,” Claire said. “One of the most common and effective ways to address hearing loss is with hearing aids. But there are many important factors to consider before you purchase a device.”
You may have heard: Some hearing aids can now be sold without a prescription. A new federal rule has created a category of over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids. Consumers with self-diagnosed, mild to moderate hearing loss can now buy OTC devices without a hearing exam, prescription or fitting adjustment by an audiologist. The rule does not cover hearing aids for children or adults with serious hearing problems. In those cases, a prescription is still required.
With OTC hearing aids now available, consumers have more options than ever before. If you’re evaluating your current hearing health and potential treatment options, Claire has these tips for picking a device:
1. Understand your degree of hearing loss. An online hearing test can give you an idea of your hearing status. If necessary, consider scheduling an appointment with a hearing healthcare professional for a comprehensive exam. An audiologist or hearing instrument specialist can help you determine which hearing aid may be best for your degree of hearing loss, lifestyle and budget — including OTC options.
2. Look for key technology features. Modern hearing aids have sophisticated processors that can help you hear soft sounds in front of you, while also reducing background distractions and keeping loud noises at a comfortable level. With Bluetooth compatibility, you may be able to take phone calls or stream TV audio through your hearing aids — making it easier than ever to stay connected to your environment.
3. Check your coverage for hearing aids. Some insurance plans, including those through an employer or Medicare Advantage, may cover some or all the cost of prescription hearing aids to help make treatment and support more affordable. UnitedHealthcare enables people with and without health insurance to access significant savings on prescription and OTC hearing aids. Check with your health plan to see which options may be available to you.
4. Evaluate virtual care options. If you have hearing test results, you may be able to order custom-programmed, prescription hearing aids and use virtual hearing care options for remote fitting and ongoing support. This may help you avoid the need for multiple in-person appointments with hearing professionals.
5. Have reasonable expectations. If you are using hearing aids for the first time, it may take a few weeks to become comfortable with them. Remember to be patient as you adjust to sounds that you may not have heard in years. Hearing aids also can’t completely restore normal hearing or eliminate all background noise. However, studies have shown that people who treat their hearing loss often report significant improvements in overall quality of life.
Worth noting: UnitedHealthcare is now administering AARP® Hearing Solutions™ to help make it easier and more affordable for millions of Americans to buy prescription and OTC hearing aids.
Under the new program, AARP members can purchase prescription hearing aids and get support from a licensed hearing professional for as low as $699 per hearing device — a price that may be significantly lower than prescription hearing aids available through other channels.
AARP members also have access to UnitedHealthcare Hearing’s national provider network of thousands of hearing health care professionals for no-cost hearing tests, in-person assistance with fittings and more.
For AARP members with self-diagnosed, mild to moderate hearing loss, the program also offers exclusive program pricing on OTC hearing aids. AARP members can order OTC hearing aids from some of the industry’s top brands, including Jabra and Lexie B2 Hearing Aids, powered by Bose, at some of the lowest prices available. AARP members can start the process at AARPHearingSolutions.com.