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NCOA Praises Commitment to Improving Nation's Hearing Health

WASHINGTON, D.C., December 2004 The National Council on the Aging (NCOA) is committed to improving the nations hearing health and applauds the creation of The Hearing Health Network (HHN).'

The NCOA recognizes the value of HHN, a new partnership established earlier this week between family doctors and hearing care professionals to improve and expand access to hearing health care in the United States. HHN aims to dramatically change an alarming statistic: of the 28 million Americans who suffer from some degree of hearing loss, only 6 million are being treated.

According to James Firman, Ed.D, president of the NCOA, The Hearing Health Network is a very important initiative, and the fact that people can now go to their family doctors office and ask for testing is a very valuable step.

Hearing-impaired patients become five to eight times more likely to seek help when advised to do so by their family doctor, reports MarkeTrak--the most widely recognized study on the hearing aid industry. In addition, a new survey by PKS Research indicates that 49.9 percent of people have not had their hearing tested in the last decade, which is no surprise. The survey also found that 94 percent of respondents would be extremely likely, very likely, or somewhat likely to seek treatment if their family doctor diagnosed a hearing problem.

Dr. Firman states that The Hearing Health Network has the potential to greatly improve the nations hearing health by including hearing testing in a routine physical. In this way, family doctors can identify more patients with hearing loss and refer them to a hearing care specialist for treatment.

Untreated hearing loss can lead to a whole host of problems, including depression, sadness, isolation, lack of involvement in activities and often a lot of friction inside the family, according to Dr. Firman.

The NCOA understands the challenges and opportunities to hearing loss detection thanks to its landmark study entitled, The Consequences of Untreated Hearing Loss in Older Persons. That study, completed five years ago, addressed the consequences of untreated hearing loss in older persons.

According to the study, seniors whose hearing loss is treated generally enjoy better relationships with their families, better feelings about themselves, improved mental health, and greater independence and security.

The NCOA study concludes, Because of the potential negative consequences of untreated hearing loss on a persons quality of life and family relationships, hearing loss should be a routine topic of discussion for older persons and their doctors.

Founded in 1950, The National Council on the Aging is a national network of organizations and individuals dedicated to improving the health and independence of older persons; increasing their continuing contributions to communities, society, and future generations; and to building caring communities. For more information on NCOA, visit www.ncoa.org.

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