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People not using hearings aids despite hearing loss

Millions of people with hearing loss are not using hearing aids, according to new research by Johns Hopkins scientists.

Nearly 6.7 million Americans age 50 and older have hearing loss, but only  one in seven uses a hearing aid, according to the new research. The Hopkins researchers said it shows how under treated hearing loss is. It is the most expansive data analysis on the subject ever.

“Understanding current rates of hearing loss treatment is important, as evidence is beginning to surface that hearing loss is associated with poorer cognitive functioning and the risk of dementia,” study senior investigator, otologist and epidemiologist Frank Lin said in a statement. “Previous studies that have attempted to estimate hearing aid use have relied on industry marketing data or focused on specific groups that don’t represent a true sample of the United States population.”

The study used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a research program that has periodically gathered health information from thousands of Americans since 1971. Participants answered questions about whether they used a hearing aid and had their hearing tested. The studied covered the period from 1999 to 2006.

 The findings were published online in the Archives of Internal Medicine online.

They showed that only 14 percent of adults with hearing loss use hearing aids.

Lin said many with hearing loss don't using hearing aidsbecause health insurance often does not cover the costs and because they aren't trained to use the devices. People also don't consider hearing loss a big deal.

“There’s still a perception among the public and many medical professionals that hearing loss is an inconsequential part of the aging process and you can’t do anything about it,”  Lin said. “We want to turn that idea around.”

Some funding for the study was provided by the U.S. National Institutes of Health.


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