Patients with Untreated Hearing Loss Incur Higher Health Care Costs Over Time

There are lots of reasons why you should get hearing loss treated: think of all the things you miss when you struggle to hear in every day interactions! With untreated hearing loss, you miss the birds singing outside and the whisper of “I love you” or “thank you Grandma” from a loved one. Studies show untreated hearing loss causes people to isolate themselves because they just don’t want to deal with the pressure of trying to decipher a conversation in public or they don’t want to keep asking people to repeat themselves at a restaurant. Once social isolation begins, the quality of life suffers. Depression and anxiety are common among people with untreated hearing loss, and studies show individuals with untreated hearing loss are more prone to dementia.

Prevalence of Hearing Loss

Hearing loss affects 38 million Americans, and the number of Americans with hearing loss is expected to double by 2060, due to the current aging population. An estimated one in three people in the U.S. between the ages of 65 and 74 currently has hearing loss, and two-thirds of adults age 70 years and older have a clinically significant hearing loss.

Untreated Hearing Loss & the Effects on Your Health

Studies show that untreated hearing loss makes you more accident prone; leads to longer stays in the hospital than the average person; and makes individuals more likely to be re-admitted when being treated for a serious injury or illness.

The John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health released a study in November of 2018 showing a correlation between untreated hearing loss and higher health care costs. One of the largest studies of its kind, this study followed individuals for 10 years and found that adults with untreated hearing loss had health care costs that were 46% higher, or $22,434 over the 10 years, than individuals who had no hearing loss.

The differences between the two groups – untreated hearing loss and no hearing loss – showed up as early as two years into the study. Patients with untreated hearing loss generated nearly 26% more in total health care costs within two years.

The study also confirmed other findings. For example, researchers found that untreated hearing loss leads to a higher risk of dementia, falls, depression, cognitive decline, and a poorer quality of life in general. At the end of the 10-year study, researchers determined that patients with untreated hearing loss experienced about 50% more hospital stays, had about 44% higher risk for readmission with 30 days of discharge, and 17% were more likely to have visits to the emergency room. They also logged about 52 more outpatient visits compared to those without hearing loss.

A Correlation between Hearing Loss and Other Health Issues

The new Bloomberg study does not show exactly why untreated hearing loss pushes up health care costs, but a companion paper done during the same study offers correlation between hearing loss and health problems. Compared to those without hearing loss, those with untreated hearing loss had 3.2 more dementia diagnoses, 3.6 more falls and 6.9 more diagnoses of depression per 100 individuals over 10 years. Over the 10-year study period those with untreated hearing loss had 50% greater risk of dementia, 40% greater risk of depression and nearly 30% high risk for falls compared to those without hearing loss.

Hearing Loss and Communication

As part of the conclusion, researchers stated that another possibility in the link between hearing loss and greater health care cost is communication. Poor doctor/patient communication has been noted as one of the factors for increased likelihood of hospital readmission or the hearing impaired within 30 days of release from the hospital during treatment of an illness. Patients who are hard of hearing have difficulty communicating their symptoms, actively participating in conversations about what they need to watch for after discharge and follow up health plans and difficulty following discharge instructions.

Visit Us at Neighborhood Hearing Aid Centers

For better hearing health and better all-around health, schedule a hearing test at any of our 10 Neighborhood Hearing Aid Centers locations. We’ve got a strong team of professionals at each location to help you on your journey to better hearing health, with patience, courtesy and kindness. We offer risk free trials of hearing devices, so you can be sure you are getting what you want, and you will use the hearing aids. Contact us today to learn more.