Hearing Loss

Advisers urge easier access to treatment for hearing loss

DePaul University senior Angella Day, of Carrolton, Ohio,  listens to her iPod and reads before class on Monday, Sept. 12, 2005, in Chicago. Experts says the growing popularity of portable music players and other items that attach directly to the ears has contributed to the problem of hearing loss in younger people. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

DePaul University senior Angella Day, of Carrolton, Ohio, listens to her iPod and reads before class on Monday, Sept. 12, 2005, in Chicago. Experts says the growing popularity of portable music players and other items that attach directly to the ears has contributed to the problem of hearing loss in younger people. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)  (AP)

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Hearing loss is a growing public health problem that can leave older adults socially isolated and even increase the risk of dementia.

Now, a prestigious government advisory group is calling for changes to make getting treated less of pricey hassle.

One proposal would allow some simple devices for mild hearing problems to be sold over the counter for people who can't afford or aren't ready to make the leap to full hearing aids.

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A new report says only a fraction of older adults who might benefit from hearing aids use them. One reason is the price - averaging about $4,700 a pair.

Insurance coverage is limited. Medicare doesn't pay for them, just the diagnostic tests.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine recommends making treatment more affordable and accessible.