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COVID Impacting Hearing Health

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Hearing loss affects 48 million Americans, but people wait an average of seven years before getting treatment. (Elnur/Adobe Stock)
Hearing loss affects 48 million Americans, but people wait an average of seven years before getting treatment. (Elnur/Adobe Stock)
 By Andrea Sears - Producer, Contact
April 5, 2021

NEW YORK -- From delayed treatment to possible links to impaired hearing, the COVID-19 pandemic has made an impact on a common problem affecting millions of people.

While COVID is most known for affecting the lungs, reports have linked COVID infections to hearing loss.

About 48 million Americans have some level of hearing loss, but according to the Hearing Loss Association of America, people wait an average of seven years before getting treatment. Hearing specialists said the pandemic has contributed to that delay.

Dr. Andrew Resnick, a licensed audiologist with a practice in New York City, noticed a significant decline in the number of people seeking prevention and treatment last year during the height of the pandemic.

"There's no question that far fewer people were coming in," Resnick observed." We see mostly older people and our patient base seemed to be very, very concerned about going out."

Although hearing tests performed by a licensed audiologist are more precise, a growing number of websites help fill the gap by doing preliminary hearing evaluations online.

Diane Nens, audiologist and senior clinical director of clinical engagement and strategic initiatives at UnitedHealthcare Hearing, pointed out anyone can get a free, online hearing test done through UnitedHealthcare's website.

"If hearing loss is detected, we can schedule an in-person appointment with one of our hearing health professionals," Nens explained. "They can also talk to their primary-care physician, some of whom are starting to offer hearing testing."

She pointed out the site also has a "virtual care option," enabling people to more easily get treatment for hearing loss while minimizing the need for in-person appointments.

There are many causes of hearing loss including disease, exposure to noise or music at excessive volume levels, and hearing acuity tends to diminish with age.

Dr. Resnick noted, when left untreated, hearing loss can have serious consequences.

"Hearing loss is linked to a higher incidence of depression, social isolation, and now we know that there are certainly connections between hearing loss and cognitive decline," Resnick outlined.

He added there are many reasons, including overall quality of life, people should get their hearing tested regularly and get hearing aids or other treatment if hearing loss is detected.

Disclosure: United Healthcare contributes to our fund for reporting on Health Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
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