The Unseen Cost of Untreated Hearing Loss

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Healthcare costs of untreated hearing loss

Think hearing loss is nothing more than a little inconvenient when it comes to conversations?  Think again! It affects millions of people across the country making it one of the most common conditions out there.  This is why research is now digging into hearing loss and some of the hidden costs of untreated hearing loss. In fact, one of those hidden costs could just put a dent in your wallet in years to come.

The hidden cost of untreated hearing loss

Hearing loss is so much more than a missed word or two in conversation, or a TV turned up a little louder than it used to be. Hearing loss can change your life in so many ways. As researchers have begun to focus in on hearing loss, specifically, untreated hearing loss, they have uncovered many startling connections including:

  • Increased risk of anxiety and depression
  • Lower household income
  • Increased risk of falls
  • A higher rate of cognitive decline and dementia

You may think that you don’t have hearing loss or that your hearing impairment isn’t extensive enough to need treatment, but the latest findings may be just the push you (or a loved one) needs to seek help. That’s because this research points to the potential for increased health care costs.

The findings

According to the results from Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, older adults with untreated hearing loss end up paying “substantially higher total health care costs compared to those who don’t have hearing loss.” The difference in costs could add up fast for both individuals and health insurance companies too! Researchers found that the increased expenses averaged approximately 46 percent, totaling $22,434 per person over a decade.

During the study, the team used health care data to identify over 77,000 people believed to have untreated age-related hearing loss. These individuals were compared to those without hearing loss who had similar demographics and healthcare use.

After ten years, the data was reexamined and the findings startling. Those with untreated hearing loss had more hospital stays, more hospital readmissions, were more likely to need treatment at the emergency room and had more outpatient visits than those with normal hearing.

Why it makes a difference

While more studies are needed to determine precisely why those with untreated hearing loss may find themselves with higher healthcare costs over time, researchers do have theories as to the underlying reason.

Some experts believe that because hearing loss is often associated with other serious health issues such as cardiovascular diseases, it may make sense that these individuals require more healthcare.

Others believe that untreated hearing loss negatively impacts an individual’s ability to communicate with a healthcare professional putting them at higher risk for ongoing issues.

“Knowing that untreated hearing loss dramatically drives up health care utilization and costs will hopefully be a call to action among health systems and insurers to find ways to better serve these patients,” says Nicholas S. Reed, AuD, study lead and a member of the core faculty of the Cochlear Center for Hearing and Public Health at the Bloomberg School.

If these findings tell us anything, it’s never to underestimate the impact that hearing loss can have on your life. If you believe you have hearing loss, schedule an appointment with our office today for a hearing evaluation. It’s the first step to treatment and taking control of your hearing health.

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