The top hearing health news stories in 2015

Contributed by | Monday, December 28th, 2015

With 2015 at an end, the Healthy Hearing team took a moment to pause and reflect on the top articles of the past year. Based on the number of views, likes, shares and Facebook comments, we determined these were the articles that most captured your attention.

#5: Medicare hearing aid bill reintroduced: What it means for you

The number 5 article we wrote in 2015 reported the re-introduction of some important legislation for our readers: the Help Extend Auditory Relief Act (HEAR). The goal of this legislation is to extend Medicare coverage to hearing aids and hearing related services. First introduced in 2013, HEAR was not enacted into law before the end of the 113th Congress. As result, the bill was re-numbered and introduced anew in the 114th Congress.

This year was a busy one for
the hearing healthcare world!
We've got the top five news
stories of 2015! 
(Photo credit: Tim Pierce)

Based on the number of comments, the issue of hearing aid coverage certainly resonated with our readers. Facebook user Doris Stewart commented, “I have hearing loss and interferes with everything I do. I can't hear half of what my doctors say to me, my little grandchildren get tired of trying to talk to me because they have to stand right in front of me and say things over and over again. It is hard to do anything when you can't hear people. Then to be told that hearing aids are considered cosmetic and insurance will not cover them is heart breaking. At 68 years old I hope to live a lot longer but to do that and not be able to hear is going to be very hard. I hope people will vote yes on this bill this go around.”

At Healthy Hearing, we know hearing aid coverage is an important issue for our readers; as such, we will continue to bring you breaking news on any changes in the status of this legislation.

#4: New guidelines for tinnitus align with promising new therapies

Our number 4 article for 2015 addressed an important issue for a large number of our readers, and the population at large: Tinnitus. More specifically, we tried to separate the truth from the hype as we wrote about what works and what doesn’t, along with some promising new therapies. The article highlighted some recent discoveries such as UltraQuiet and music therapy, as well as discussing some treatments that have gained popularity in recent years despite being disproven by experts.

# 3: Hearing aids may help slow cognitive decline

Our third most popular article dealt the issue of cognitive decline as it relates to hearing loss. For years, researchers have associated cognitive decline with untreated hearing loss, but what was not known was whether the use of hearing aids could actually slow cognitive decline. Now, scientists who study hearing loss and cognitive decline are coming to potentially life-changing conclusions that could lead to cutting edge hearing treatment and dementia prevention. 

The longitudinal study done at Johns Hopkins was the first to show that the use of hearing assistive devices significantly reduces the risk of cognitive decline. The article also touched on several other possible hearing-related reasons for cognitive decline, such as:

  • Cognitive overload
  • Social isolation
  • Atrophy of the “sound processing” portions of the brain

Based on your feedback, we know our readers are concerned enough about this issue to want to make it a medical priority. As reader Kathleen Garofalo Radford commented, “Wish insurance could help cover the cost.”

#2: New treatments for hearing loss are on the horizon

With a rapidly increasing population of people over the age of 50, the number of people with hearing loss is increasing as well. It just makes sense that treating or preventing age related and other types of hearing loss hearing loss is becoming more of a concern. So it stands to reason that our second most popular article of 2015 highlighted some potential new treatments for hearing loss which are currently in development. While some types of hearing loss cannot yet be treated after the fact with therapies or medications, other types of hearing loss are lending themselves well to these new discoveries. Some types of hearing loss that respond to treatment are:

  • Tinnitus,
  • Trauma and
  • Exposure to ototoxic medications

Perhaps due to the aging baby boomer population, a huge market for the pharmaceutical companies, scientists are working overtime to come up with new medication and treatments for hearing loss and other disorders of the inner ear such as Meniere’s disease. Potential treatments include, but are not limited to:

  • Gene therapy,
  • Stem cell therapy and 
  • Pharmaceuticals

For those like Facebook reader Patricia Wells DePover, who commented, “I have hearing aids but still rely on some degree of lip reading,” perhaps hope lies in one of the promising new treatments in development. Keep reading Healthy Hearing for breaking updates on the latest medical news and updates.

#1 Consumer Reports & Hearing Aids: Hear well in a noisy world

Who doesn’t love Consumer Reports? The ever popular product review magazine deftly tackles subjects from humidifiers to hot plates and everything in between, and this year they took on a subject near and dear to our hearts: hearing aids. Our most popular article for 2015 was about a Consumer Reports study that followed 12 people on their hearing aid journey, from shopping for them to actually using them.

But the ever-thorough Consumer Reports didn’t stop there; they also conducted a national survey of people who had purchased and used hearing aids in the last three years, as well as lab testing 44 hearing aids. Through their research, reviews and testing, they were able to glean valuable insights into the factors and challenges that would prevent people from shopping for or using hearing aids. Some of these challenges included:

  • High prices,
  • Incorrect fit and
  • Lack of information

Perhaps reader Alina Marinca Marie Phoenix put it best when she said, “I would like people to know that our hearing is important. We take it too much for granted. I'm hearing impaired, and I wish people wouldn't make fun of me for it. Others poking fun is part of the stigma of hearing loss. For those resisting hearing aids, other people notice hearing loss way more than hearing aids. Furthermore, the longer you wait to get help, the less you get back when you do finally get help. We do no one any favors by denying we have a problem and refusing to get help. Least of all, ourselves. So please, be kind to those with hearing loss...and get help when that person is you.”

Thank you for all of your feedback in 2015, and know that we are hard at work developing even more ideas to bring to you in 2016. We look forward to continuing to provide relevant and meaningful content to you in the New Year.

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