Impacting over 48 million people, hearing loss is one of the most common health conditions people live with today. Even though it is pervasive, hearing loss still remains widely undertreated. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) estimates that only one third of people with impaired hearing who could benefit from treatment actually receive it. Additionally, it takes an average of 7 years for people to address hearing loss symptoms.
Untreated hearing loss has multifaceted effects that take a toll on communication, relationship, social life, and health. In addition to worsening impairment, untreated hearing loss can also increase health care costs over time. In fact, a recent study reveals that people with untreated hearing loss can spend 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 on Health
To understand how people with imparied hearing can spend more on healthcare costs, it is helpful to understand the impact of untreated hearing loss. Hearing loss reduces a person’s capacity to hear and process sound. This produces various symptoms that make it challenging to hear and communicate. Symptoms like tinnitus (a buzzing or ringing noise in the ears) and the distortion or muffling of sounds take a toll on communication. This makes it difficult to participate in and follow conversations, especially in settings with background noise.
In addition to straining communication, untreated hearing loss can also lead to social withdrawal. Because it takes more energy to hear and the brain is working overtime, conversations can be exhausting. People often avoid them by skipping out on social events, spending time with loved ones, and not participating in activities. Social withdrawal increases isolation, contributing to depressive symptoms which impacts mental health. Untreated hearing loss also increases health risks. Studies have shown that people with hearing loss can be more likely to experience falls, accidental injuries, and depression. These increased health risks contribute to increased healthcare costs.
Hearing Loss & Increased Healthcare Costs
Research shows that untreated hearing loss can increase healthcare costs. A significant study that investigated this link was conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. This study involved collecting and assessing data provided by a nation-wide database containing healthcare information of people enrolled in U.S. healthcare plans and Medicare Advantage plans. Researchers identified 77,000 patients who they suspected had untreated age-related hearing loss and claims related to healthcare services including: inpatient emergency department visits, hospitalizations and readmissions within 30 days, days with at least one outpatient visit as well as associated health care costs.
Researchers evaluated healthcare costs over a 10 year period. Key findings include that patients with untreated hearing 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
Increased healthcare costs amounted to an additional $22,434 over a period of 10 years. These findings highlight that untreated hearing loss can substantially increase total healthcare costs. Experts suggest that this is due to a variety of factors related to untreated hearing loss including strained communication which leads to communication breakdowns with healthcare providers. This can include not fully hearing or understanding a diagnosis, treatment plan, instructions etc. Additionally, people with untreated hearing loss can be more likely to experience accidental injuries which also lead to greater healthcare needs and costs.
Prioritize Your Hearing Health Today
Increased healthcare costs is one potential outcome of untreated hearing loss. Symptoms that remain unaddressed can also take a toll on everyday interactions, relationships, social life, and wellness. It is important to address symptoms as weary as possible. There is a wide range of hearing healthcare services and resources available to you.
The first step is to schedule an appointment for a hearing consultation. This involves having your hearing comprehensively evaluated. Hearing tests involve a painless process that assess hearing capacity in both ears, identifying any hearing loss and the degree of impairment. Fortunately, there are effective ways hearing loss is treated. The most common treatment is hearing aids – electronic devices that absorb and process speech as well as sound. Hearing aids provide significant support that increases capacity to hear. Treatment offers significant benefits including strengthening communication and improving overall health. Contact us today to schedule an appointment for a hearing consultation!