Do you receive an annual wellness visit (AWV) as part of your Medicare plan? Are you concerned about your hearing health? If you’ve answered “yes” to both of these questions, it’s time for you to start getting the most out of your annual wellness visits when it comes to protecting your hearing. Introduced in 2011 by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, the main focus on these visits was to shift the medical focus from treating acute conditions to early intervention and preventative care. Unfortunately, this is not always the case when addressing hearing health. Screenings for hearing are usually included in your AWV, but identification of hearing loss in patients who receive a screening is not as common as it should be. Though studies indicate the reasons for this discrepancy may be complex, it’s important for patients to ensure they are maximizing their annual wellness visit to protect their hearing.
What Is Stopping Your Hearing Loss Diagnosis
Though there is not a one-size-fits-all explanation for why hearing loss can go unidentified during your AWV, there are a few variables that may give some insight.
- Hearing loss is often perceived as an inevitability of aging, influencing health care providers to believe your impairment is a natural degradation. While age-related hearing loss is common (over half of those aged over 75 have trouble hearing), this is not always the cause. It’s important for health-care providers not to assume that hearing loss a symptom of the body going through the motions of aging.
- Hearing loss intervention and treatment can become costly for health-care providers, as the World Health Organization (WHO) concludes that the costs of hearing loss to the health-care sector can reach $107 billion when providing devices such as hearing aids or cochlear implants. This cost may influence AWV’s to disregard hearing loss symptoms or to not seek early intervention.
- The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force found that “evidence was insufficient to assess the balance of benefits and harms of hearing loss screenings for asymptomatic adults aged 50 years or older.” With this study, the USPSTF concluded that the costs may outweigh the benefits of performing hearing screenings on patients who do not show symptoms of hearing loss.
How Audiologists and Patients Can Maximize AWVs
To tackle the needs of our ever-changing health-care system, it’s important for audiologists to raise awareness about the importance of hearing health, costs of untreated hearing loss to patients, the economy, and the health-care system, and the overall health benefits of healthy hearing to physicians when discussing annual wellness visits.
Though audiologists may try to raise awareness, physicians routinely screen an abysmally low number of patients for hearing loss, reaching about 12.9% of the U.S. population. This has raised the demand for patients to become their own strongest advocate. Whether you are showing symptoms of hearing loss or want to be proactive about protecting your hearing, it’s important to discuss options during your annual wellness visit and ensure that you are receiving hearing screenings and preventive care you may need.