Hearing loss is an under-diagnosed medical condition that significantly impacts the physical and mental health of those who have any degree of hearing difficulty. Disabling hearing loss is being called the ‘invisible epidemic.’ It affects more than three million South Africans and over 1.5 billion people globally. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that in just two more decades, this number will exceed 2.5 billion. To help create more awareness,
Bonitas Medical Fund is offering free online hearing screening for all South Africans.
One of the biggest concerns associated with hearing loss when it is not treated properly is the long-term impact it has on the quality of life. Prevention and early detection are important, after all, hearing is the foundation for speech and language development, as well as learning and communication.
Which is why Bonitas Medical Fund has introduced an online hearing screener on its website www.bonitas.co.za. ‘We have partnered with hearConnect to make this functionality available to all South Africans,’ says Lee Callakoppen, Principal Officer of Bonitas.
The online, validated speech-in-noise hearing test uses the latest in audiological technology. This is combined with the highest standards of clinical expertise and available on the website. In just two minutes you can test your hearing status.
All you need is access to a computer or your mobile, headphones or ear plugs, a quiet area and then you’re all set to take the test. If the screening test indicates you are experiencing hearing loss, hearConnect is available to guide you through the next steps.
‘Our partnership with hearConnect includes a full audiology benefit management programme for our members. This includes a follow up with ongoing treatment steps if hearing loss is detected.’
The introduction of this programme has also improved audiology benefits for Bonitas members – offering full cover all consultations, tests and treatment needs without any unwanted co-payments. This is subject to the use of an audiologist on the hearConnect Audiology Network, hearConnect treatment protocols and clinical pathways.
There are many challenges associated with hearing loss. These include language development that impacts our ability to read, write, spell and concentrate. It affects social skills resulting in isolation, depression, loneliness, cognitive impairment, unemployment and an increased risk of dementia.
Hearing loss also has a direct impact on healthcare costs. ‘As a medical scheme we know that patients with untreated hearing loss experience more inpatient stays compared to those without hearing loss,’ says Callakoppen. This has a direct impact on healthcare utilisation costs. There is a 17% increased risk of emergency department visits, readmissions and rate of hospitalisation as well as longer hospital stays.’
What causes hearing loss
Hearing loss can come about as you age or as a result of loud noises, illnesses and disease,
genetics and trauma (contact sport) can also cause hearing loss. Other factors, such as too
much earwax, also reduce your ability to hear.