Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Beware of DIY Health Care

A good read and some great advice from Jaynee Handelsman of US News and World Report:

Both health and wallets suffer when people bypass medical experts in favor of do-it-yourself diagnoses and treatment for hearing loss.

A do-it-yourself world sounds good – in theory. Do-it-yourself auto repairs might make sense for the savvy and mechanically inclined, while do-it-yourself electricians should probably think twice about it. But do-it-yourself health care? Probably not. Yet easy access to health information online and a culture that too often encourages speed over quality is leading Americans down a very unhealthy path.

I've witnessed this vividly in the world of hearing loss, where quick fixes that are "easier and cheaper" are being passed off as solutions to complex hearing challenges. There is no cookie-cutter solution to hearing health, no matter how many of these stories are published. The result we're seeing in the world of audiology is people taking shortcuts that undermine their hearing in ways that can waste money, allow issues to fester and ultimately harm their quality of life. 

This isn't a small concern – it's a big, growing one. According to the Hearing Health Foundation, the number of Americans with hearing loss – 50 million – has doubled in the past 15 years. One in 5 adults, 1 in 5 teens and 3 out of 5 veterans returning from war have hearing complications.

Older Americans provide a good gauge of the state of hearing in the United States. When, in partnership with AARP, my organization did a 2011 survey on the hearing health of AARP's members, nearly half – millions of people – reported untreated hearing loss. Many thought they were getting by. In doing so, however, they were putting themselves at risk for a lower quality of life potentially fraught with reduced social interaction, employment problems and additional medical complications. Studies have even linked hearing loss to dementia.

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