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Why dental, hearing and vision care is essential to your health

Color portrait of Sachi Fujimori By Sachi Fujimori

As you age, having dental, vision and hearing care is vital to your total health and well-being. Neglecting these areas may be linked to other health problems, such as heart issues, dementia, depression and increased risk of falls. 

One major benefit of Medicare Advantage (MA) is that many plans offer coverage for your eyes, ears and teeth. Original Medicare, on the other hand, does not cover any routine hearing, vision or dental care, and that can get to be expensive. For many MA plans, these benefits are already included in the plan’s premium — the amount you pay each month for health coverage.

“Hearing, vision and dental care is not only important for your physical health, but can help improve your quality of life and social interactions with family and friends,” says Dr. Alena Baquet-Simpson, senior director, Medical Health Services at Aetna®.  

MA plans from Aetna are designed to help empower you to take care of your total health. Read on to learn more about why it’s so important to take care of your dental, vision and hearing health as you age. 

Hearing care

Hearing care
Hearing care

Hearing loss can have many physical and mental health impacts. With difficulty hearing, you may be unable to participate in conversations with family and friends. And you may avoid daily activities such as going out to the store or social events. This social isolation can eventually lead to depression. 

Impaired hearing is also strongly linked to an increased risk of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. Some studies have shown that certain areas of the brain that are linked to hearing and communication may shrink from hearing loss. “With dementia, one of the ways you can protect yourself, and maybe slow the onset, is by exercising and stimulating your brain,” says Baquet-Simpson. “But when you have hearing loss, there's potentially less stimulation to the brain.”

Understanding hearing benefits
Understanding hearing benefits

If you have hearing issues, it’s important to get treatment. Hearing aids may prevent some of these health risks and help you better interact with loved ones. Many MA plans include coverage for hearing exams and an annual allowance to help cover the cost of hearing aids. 

Vision care

Vision care
Vision care

As you age, you are at higher risk for vision problems such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD), cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and dry eye. You may also experience problems with seeing objects up close (farsightedness) and needing more light to see more clearly. 

Vision loss in older adults is linked to increased risk of falls, dementia and depression. It affects your ability to take part in daily activities such as driving, reading the newspaper or watching television. By losing independence, you may be at higher risk for social isolation and depression. Vision loss can also impact your depth perception and balance, putting you at higher risk for falling.

Understanding vision benefits
Understanding vision benefits

Original Medicare may cover certain services related to cataract surgery, macular degeneration, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy, but it does not cover routine eye care. Many MA plans, however, offer coverage for an annual eye exam, as well as prescription glasses and contacts. Regular eye exams are important to help identify health problems earlier and to maintain your vision.

Dental care

Dental care
Dental care

Good oral health is also connected to your overall physical and mental health. Studies have shown that gum disease is closely associated with higher risk of heart disease and rheumatoid arthritis. Untreated gum disease may increase inflammation in the body, which can lead to damage to other tissues and organs.  

Maintaining healthy teeth also helps you eat a well-balanced diet. If you have extensive tooth loss, you are less likely to eat nutritiously. That’s because you have difficulty chewing certain high-fiber foods such as fruits and vegetables. Studies have shown that older adults with poor oral health are more likely to be underweight or obese. Tooth loss can also impact a person’s ability to speak, and it can lead to social isolation.

Understanding dental benefits
Understanding dental benefits

By regularly seeing a dentist for checkups and maintaining good oral hygiene, you can prevent many of these issues or you can get treatment for them. Many MA plans offer some form of dental coverage, including annual exams, cleanings, X-rays and fillings. Some plans offer more comprehensive coverage for dental services such as dentures and root canals. 

If you neglect one area of your health, such as hearing, vision or dental care, it can have a wider impact on your overall well-being. But with additional benefits to fit your needs, there may be an MA plan that can help you care for your total health and achieve your best quality of life.

About the author

Sachi Fujimori is a writer and editor based in Brooklyn who focuses on writing about science and health.  A good day is one where she eats her vegetables and remembers to live in the moment with her baby girl.

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