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

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

In Ear Health, Hearing Health by Bary E. Williams Au.D.

Hearing loss is the third most common health condition affecting older adults in the US but in truth it affects people of all ages. Unfortunately, in 90% of hearing loss cases the damage is permanent, meaning that it’s important to diagnose and treat a hearing loss a s soon as possible. Unfortunately, despite its far-reaching impact across the US and world hearing loss is often undiagnosed and underestimated. 

Not only does untreated hearing loss impact various facets of life, but it can also lead to higher healthcare costs over time. In fact, new research reveals that people with untreated hearing loss can incur up to 46% more in total health care costs over a 10-year period compared to those without hearing loss!

Impact of Untreated Hearing Loss

Hearing loss often develops slowly over many years. It is often such a subtle progression that many people don’t know they have it. They can rationalize and get used to the loss and may not even notice they’ve been missing certain sounds until someone else points out a sound they may be missing. The NIDCD estimates that nearly 30 million people who could benefit from using hearing aids do not use them. However, even if you aren’t aware, you have a hearing loss, doesn’t mean it’s not affecting you.

The Effect on All of Your Relationships

When you struggle to hear the people in your life it can start to affect the quality of all your relationships at home and at work. This affects your home life, your social life and even your professional success. Your loved ones may be more aware of your loss than you, as constant miscommunications yield resentment and rifts. At work your co-workers will notice too, though they may not know it’s a hearing loss. However common miscommunications can add up to poor work performance and missed social cues. Those with hearing loss are more likely to be passed over for raises and promotions and even increases the likeliness of unemployment.

The Social Impact of Hearing Loss

Rifts in relationships and lack of professional success can take a toll on self-esteem and self-confidence. Because it’s difficult to hear it becomes exhausting to engage in social situations. You may choose to avoid social interactions when given the chance which can further impact to your health. Humans are social creatures, and we rely on regular social interaction in order to feel a sense of connection and belonging. When we feel isolated and lonely it not only adds to depression and anxiety but can increase the risk of underactivity and dementia in a significant way.

Increased Risk for Accidents

We use our ears not only to hear the people in our lives but the world around us as well. We can hear traffic approaching from behind us. We can react to warnings and alerts quickly and are aware of subtle sounds which cue us to the world around us. When hearing loss goes untreated these audio ques can be easily missed. This makes it more likely for us to suffer falls and accidents which increase the risk of hospitalizations.

These increased health risks require medical attention and care that contributes to greater healthcare costs. 

Higher Healthcare Costs & Hearing Loss

Research has established a link between untreated hearing loss and higher healthcare costs. In a 2018 study, from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, researchers collected and analyzed data from a US nation-wide database. The data included healthcare related information of patients enrolled in large, private U.S. health plans and Medicare Advantage plans. The researchers identified 77,000 patients who likely had age-related hearing loss that was untreated, and cross examined this with claims related to health care utilization including: inpatient hospitalizations and readmissions within 30 days, emergency department visits, days with at least one outpatient visit and health care costs.

Over a 10-year period they found that patients with untreated hearing loss experienced: 

  • 50% more hospital stays, 
  • 44% higher risk for hospital readmission within 30 days
  • 17% more likely to have an emergency department visit 
  • 52 more outpatient visits 

The Staggering Cost of Untreated Hearing Loss

After calculating the costs of this increased healthcare, researchers found that the total costs amounted to $22,434 over a 10-year period (per patient)! These significant findings highlight that untreated hearing loss can lead to increased medical care. When you compare this to the cost of hearing aids the disparity is clear. Hearing aids are an important investment in your total health. To find out more, schedule a hearing

exam with us today and invest in the future of your health!

Bary E. Williams Au.D.
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