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UnitedHealthcare Texas

Tips to Help Prevent and Treat Hearing Loss

More than 90 percent of Americans know that exposure to loud sounds can cause hearing loss; however, just 50 percent correctly recognized that both one-time exposure to a loud sound and cumulative exposure to moderately loud sounds can harm hearing health, according to a recent UnitedHealthcare survey.

Hearing loss affects more than 48 million people nationwide, and it could become even more widespread in the coming years: more than 1.1 billion young adults worldwide are at risk of developing hearing loss, according to a study by the World Health Organization.

These statistics are a reminder for people to check their hearing health – and that of their loved ones – to help prevent the condition or, if necessary, obtain treatment. Hearing health is crucial to overall health, as research shows hearing loss is associated with social isolation, dementia, depression and increased risk of falls.

To help encourage better hearing health in 2019, consider these tips:

  • Limit exposure to loud noises: People should limit their exposure to loud sounds, such as music, lawn mowers or motorcycles, to no more than 20 minutes at a time. If attending a football game or music concert, consider wearing ear protection (i.e. ear plugs). This is especially true for young people, as children’s ears are more susceptible to harm caused by exposure to loud sounds. While hearing loss is more common among older Americans, younger people can also be affected: about 20 percent of people over age 12 experience some level of hearing loss. 
  • Opt for noise-cancelling headphones: One factor spurring the increased risk of noise-induced hearing loss is the growing popularity of earbuds. People should consider over-the-ear headphones – especially models with noise-cancelling properties – as those are generally considered a better option than earbuds. When using earbuds, follow the “60/60 rule,” which means listening for no more than 60 minutes at a time and at no more than 60 percent of the player’s maximum volume. If someone else can hear your music while you’re using earbuds, it’s an indication of excessive volume. 
  • Talk to a health professional and schedule a hearing test: Common signs of hearing loss include turning up the volume on the TV or radio to levels that others find too loud, having trouble hearing people on the phone, and difficulty following conversations in noisy environments. Some primary care physicians are starting to offer hearing testing, making it more convenient to follow recommended guidelines, which includes being screened at least every decade through age 50 and then at three-year intervals thereafter. 
  • Explore ways to save on hearing aids: Hearing aids can be expensive, but more affordable options are available. Direct-to-consumer hearing aids can enable people to save 60 percent or more compared to devices sold through traditional channels. And a growing number of health plans are offering coverage for hearing aids, including through some Medicare Advantage and employer-sponsored benefit plans. 
  • Use effective communication strategies: Hearing aids are more helpful when people use effective communication strategies, such as watching lip movements and facial expressions, and selecting settings that are “hearing friendly.” For example, people with hearing loss should opt for restaurants that are relatively quiet and go at times that aren’t as busy. Another strategy is to select a table along a wall or in a corner, which will reduce background noise.

Tips to Help Achieve Your New Year’s Resolutions

Every year, Texans make New Year’s resolutions, many of which improve their health and wealth. In fact, more than one-third (35 percent) of Americans plan to make health-related New Year’s resolutions this year, while a nearly equal number (34 percent) have vowed to improve their financial well-being, according to a new UnitedHealthcare survey.

What are the most common resolutions for 2019? Among people making health resolutions, 34 percent are planning to exercise more, 17 percent intend to eat a healthier diet and 15 percent hope to lose weight. When it comes to financial health, the most common resolutions include saving more (36 percent), paying off debt (20 percent) and increasing income (18 percent).

With that in mind, here are four tips to help encourage a healthier lifestyle for 2019:

Leverage Technology
If you received a new gadget as a holiday gift, there are ways to use that technology to help achieve your resolutions. In fact, the UnitedHealthcare survey found that 53 percent of people making health resolutions plan to use technology to help achieve their goals, including a smartphone app (34 percent), activity tracker (27 percent) or virtual visit with a health care provider (10 percent). Technology can also help people more effectively navigate the health system: online resources now provide quality and cost information for health care providers and treatments in your local area, while some mobile apps can help people evaluate different care settings based on their symptoms, ranging from a virtual visit, primary care, urgent care or the ER.    

Walk to Help Improve Health
If walking is how you plan to improve your fitness, there are some strategies to help make your workout more effective. Think FIT, which stands for frequency (500 steps within seven minutes six times per day), intensity (3,000 steps within 30 minutes each day) and tenacity (at least 10,000 total steps per day). If those targets seem daunting, remember to start slowly and build up over time. For added motivation, some employer-sponsored programs provide financial incentives by meeting walking goals.

Check Available Resources
Many employers (86 percent) offer wellness programs, with the average financial incentive exceeding $780 per year per employee, according to a recent survey. To determine if that applies to you, check with your health plan or employer to see what resources and incentives may be available, including telephonic wellness coaching, gym membership reimbursements, and smoking cessation. You might also have access to various health screenings – such as blood pressure, cholesterol and depression – and timely vaccines, such as the flu shot. Doing so may help you get or stay healthy.

Help Improve Your Oral and Vision Health
With growing evidence of a link between oral and vision health to overall health, as well as to an array of chronic medical conditions, it is important to take care of your teeth and eyes. In fact, 45 percent of Americans say improving their oral health ranks among their resolutions, including visiting the dentist once per year (12 percent), eating less sugary foods/candy (12 percent), and flossing at least once a day (11 percent). For people with certain chronic conditions, maintaining or improving oral health is especially important, while comprehensive eye exams can detect many diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and some types of cancer.  

United Health Foundation Releases its 2018 America’s Health Rankings Annual Report

Texas ranks No. 37 among U.S. states, according to United Health Foundation’s America’s Health Rankings® Annual Report, released today.

The state received high marks for its low drug death rate (No. 5), low amount of cancer deaths (No. 11) and a high percentage of high school graduates (No. 5). The prevalence of diabetes and physical inactivity are listed as challenges.

Hawaii ranks as the healthiest state in 2018, followed by Massachusetts (2), Connecticut (3), Vermont (4) and Utah (5).

To view the full report, visit AmericasHealthRankings.org.