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Hearing loss in China: The background and the costs

If you’ve been in China for any significant amount of time, there’s a good chance you have developed an appreciation for the very pleasant sensory input that the country has to offer. While this may seem like a weird way to put it, there’s no denying that the sights of traditional Chinese architecture and culture are quite pleasing to the eye, and the tastes and smells of China’s food offerings are enough to make anyone’s mouth water. What about the sounds though?

While life in the rural parts of China may be somewhat quiet, and you can easily find some great natural spots where the only sounds to speak of are birds, bugs, and babbling brooks, the story is very different in China’s large cities. Here, a cacophony of car horns, engines vrooming, construction, industry, commercial business, and millions of people socializing produce a deluge of noise that can be hard to appreciate. Nevertheless, if we woke up tomorrow unable to hear these or any other sounds, we would be happy to hear the previously mentioned racket again.

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With this in mind, Pacific Prime China presents the following article on hearing loss in China and how to address the costs of treating it.

China hearing loss

It may be surprising to hear, but disabilities related to hearing loss actually are reported to be among the most common disabilities in China. So common, in fact, that they are said to affect nearly 17% of the country’s population. This effectively constitutes one out of every six people. Looking into some more focused reports, around the turn of the millennium, a study was conducted in Suzhou that showed the 66.5% of urban senior citizens, and 50.5% of rural ones experienced hearing loss.

This would seem to suggest that risk factors associated with hearing loss are having a greater effect in cities than in China’s countryside. This is especially troubling in China, which is a country that has been and is poised to continue seeing widespread urbanization. So what are the risk factors for hearing loss?

  • Age – We simply tend to lose our hearing over time.
  • Illnesses – Certain illnesses that result in a high fever have the potential to damage the ear.
  • Loud noises – As we all know, loud noises can hurt our ears. Much more than that, though, they can also permanently and irreparably damage our hearing, too. Whether it’s long and sustained noise or short, it can cause damage if it’s too loud.
  • Medications – Certain drugs can damage the ear, including chemotherapy medications and antibiotic gentamicin,  or even common drugs like aspirin or other pain relievers if taken in high enough dosages
  • Heredity – You may think that only external forces can cause hearing loss, but as with many other health issues, genetics plays a role as well.
  • Recreational noises – You may like music or riding a motorcycle, but care should be taken to protect your ears when engaging in noisy recreational activities.
  • Occupational noises – If you have a job that is particularly noisy, such as doing construction or working in a factory, take steps to protect your hearing.

Basically anything over 80 decibels can put you at risk for hearing loss. Sounds in this range include combustion engine lawn mowers and heavy traffic. Some amount of ear injury is virtually guaranteed when sounds get up to 120+ decibels, though. Noises in this range include jet engines, ambulance sirens, or gunshots.

Treatment for hearing loss in China

While the medical community is constantly striving for a cure-all for hearing loss, with very promising research being done with gene or stem cell therapy and reversing hearing loss, no current treatments are as effective as hearing loss sufferers would like.

Many of us are familiar with hearing aids, which had been the most effective form of hearing loss treatment for a long time. In addition, relatively recently cochlear implants have even allowed people who have been totally deaf to recover some amount of hearing sensation.

Western medicine will recommend these two types of treatments for people that can afford them, but may also prescribe surgical procedures, steroids, vitamin therapies, vasodilator pharmaceuticals, or simply a good ear cleaning.

What you will not often hear in medical circles, however, is the potential that traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) can have in addressing hearing loss. It has been reported that practitioners have found electro-acupuncture to be effective at improving a patient’s hearing in some cases. While additional testing is required, an option for recovering hearing that doesn’t require an electronic device will certainly be many hearing loss sufferers.

Effectiveness of TCM in treating hearing loss is said to be highly dependent on the root cause of the hearing loss. If it is caused by auditory nerve damage, there may be hope with TCM methods.

Hearing loss and insurance

When it comes to hearing loss in China, there are a number of things to consider when it comes to covering the cost of treatment. First of all, you will want to identify how hearing loss is diagnosed and ensure your insurance covers such screenings.  Next, you will want to consider the various treatments that could be needed to address potential hearing loss and ensure that you have benefits that will cover them. For instance, hearing aids and cochlear implants, while treating the same ailment, require different kinds of insurance coverage.

For hearing aids, an insurance plan will likely need to include a specific benefit for medical equipment for the purpose of treating hearing loss, while a cochlear implant will require a surgical benefit, as the device must be implanted in the patient surgically. What’s more, the various other medications that could be prescribed will need their own benefit, and those that choose to go the TCM route will need a plan with TCM coverage.

TCM treatment is included in most health insurance plans in China, although the annual maximum benefit provided on them may be low. As far as hearing aids are concerned, high end models can be as expensive as RMB 20,000, and surgical procedures can certainly be very expensive when received in the facilities that are best equipped to do them properly. However, while the in-patient component of most health insurance plans provides benefits for medically necessary surgery, there are many that do not provide coverage for hearing devices.

This is where a discussion must be had with you insurance provider to make sure that the benefits you want are included in your plan.

Get protected from the costs of treating hearing loss

Now that you know more about hearing loss in China and how it relates to health insurance, you may have additional questions, or be ready to purchase a new or upgraded medical insurance plan. Where should you turn to get the answers and plan options you need, though? Never fear! Pacific Prime China is here to act as a valuable resource for all your insurance requirements.

We offer an array of insurance solutions from top providers both in China, and around the world. What’s more, for no extra charge we can answer any and all China insurance questions you may have, provide you with a plan comparison of available policies, and give you a price quotation – all at no charge! Contact us today and find out how we can simplify insurance for you and identify your ideal health insurance plan for hearing loss or any other ailment you could think of.

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