Hearing Health Blog

Man checking into hospital incurring healthcare costs because he did not take care of his hearing loss.

For years, researchers have been thinking about the effect hearing loss has on a person’s health. New research approaches it from a different angle by examining what untreated hearing loss can do to your healthcare spending. Consumers, as well as the medical profession, are searching for ways to reduce the escalating costs of healthcare. A study published on November 8, 2018, says a solution as basic as managing your hearing loss can make a significant difference.

How Hearing Loss Affects Health

Untreated hearing loss comes with hidden risks, as reported by Johns Hopkins Medicine. After 12 years of studying it, researchers discovered that there was a considerable impact on brain health in adults with mild to severe hearing loss. For example:

  • Dementia is five times more likely in someone suffering from severe hearing loss
  • Someone with slight hearing loss has two times the risk of dementia
  • The risk is triple for those with moderate loss of hearing

The study reveals that the brain atrophies at a faster rate when a person has hearing loss. The brain is put under stress that can lead to damage because it has to work harder to do things like maintaining balance.

Also, quality of life is affected. A person who doesn’t hear well is more likely to have anxiety and stress. They are also prone to depression. Higher medical costs are the result of all of these factors.

The Newest Study

The newest study published November in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) shows that it becomes a budget breaker if you choose not to address your hearing loss. This study was also led by experts from Johns Hopkins in collaboration with AARP, the University of California San Francisco and Optum Labs.

77,000 to 150,000 patients who had untreated hearing loss were examined. Only two years after the diagnosis of hearing loss, patients generated almost 26 percent more health care costs than individuals with normal hearing.

That number continues to increase over time. Healthcare costs increase by 46 percent after 10 years. When you break those numbers down, they add up to an average of $22,434 per person.

The study lists factors associated with the increase including:

  • Cognitive decline
  • Falls
  • Dementia
  • Depression
  • Lower quality of life

A second associated study conducted by Bloomberg School indicates a link between untreated hearing loss and higher morbidity. They also uncovered that people with untreated hearing loss had:

  • 6.9 more diagnoses of depression
  • In the course of ten years, 3.2 more cases of dementia
  • 3.6 more falls

The research by Johns Hopkins matches with this one.

Hearing Loss is on the Rise

According to the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders:

  • Approximately 15 percent of young people 18 years old have trouble hearing
  • Hearing loss currently impacts 2 to 3 out of every 1,0000 children
  • Hearing loss is prevalent in 55 to 64 year olds at a rate of 8.5 percent
  • There’s considerable deafness in people between the ages of 45 to 54

The number goes up to 25 percent for people aged 65 to 74 and 50 percent for anyone above the age of 74. In the future, those numbers are anticipated to rise. As many as 38 million individuals in this country could have hearing loss by the year 2060.

The research doesn’t mention how wearing hearing aids can change these numbers, though. What they do know is that wearing hearing aids can get rid of some of the health issues connected with hearing loss. To determine whether using hearing aids decreases the cost of healthcare, more studies are needed. It seems obvious there are more reasons to use them than not. Make an appointment with a hearing care professional to see if hearing aids help you.

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