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

Patients with Untreated Hearing Loss Incur Higher Healthcare Costs Over Time

Jeff Baller, Au.D., CCC-A Ear Health, Hearing Health, Hearing Loss, Research

Jeff Baller, Au.D., CCC-A
Latest posts by Jeff Baller, Au.D., CCC-A (see all)

Though hearing loss is one of the most common chronic health conditions that people experience today, it still remains widely undertreated. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), only one third of people with impaired hearing actually receive treatment. Not only does untreated hearing loss impact various facets of life, but it can also lead to higher healthcare costs over time. Recent research shows 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 

The NIDCD estimates that nearly 30 million people who could benefit from using hearing aids do not use them. This highlights the scope of undertreatment for hearing loss. People often assume that the changes to their hearing health are not serious enough to seek medical care. But this delay in treatment can worsen impairment and have widespread effects on daily life. Untreated hearing loss produces a range of symptoms that reduce capacity to hear and process sound. This strains communication, making it difficult to engage in conversations with ease. Strained communication impacts relationships, social life, job performance, and daily wellness. 

Additionally, untreated hearing loss can lead to social withdrawal which impacts mental health. This kind of isolation contributes to depression, anxiety, and stress. Untreated hearing loss also increases the risk of developing other health conditions like cognitive decline and experiencing accidental injuries. 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. A 2018 study, one of the largest to examine this relationship,  was conducted by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The study involved collecting and analyzing data from a nation-wide database that contains healthcare related information of patients enrolled in large, private U.S. health plans and Medicare Advantage plans. Researchers identified 77,000 patients who likely had age-related hearing loss that was untreated and identified 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.

Researchers analyzed these costs over a 10 year period and found that patients with untreated hearing loss experienced the following: 

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

When researchers calculated the costs of this increased healthcare, 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. In addition to mental health challenges and increased accidental injuries that untreated hearing loss contributes to, strained communication is also another major way that healthcare is impacted. Navigating settings that are louder like hospitals or doctor’s offices with untreated hearing loss makes it more difficult to hear; causing miscommunication, not thoroughly hearing advice, and not being able to readily communicate health needs. This can lead to not receiving an accurate diagnosis, not hearing complete instructions, and confusion about a healthcare plan; resulting in more follow-up appointments and higher rates of hospitalization (or readmission). 

Treating Hearing Loss 

Increased healthcare costs is one major impact of untreated hearing loss. This underscores the importance of treating hearing health. The first step is simple: schedule an appointment with a hearing healthcare provider. Hearing tests involve a painless and noninvasive process that examines hearing capacity in both ears. This identifies any impairment, the degree, adn specific type of hearing loss you could be experiencing. The most common treatment for hearing loss is hearing aids which are electronic devices that are designed to absorb and process sound. 

Hearing aids provide ample support, maximizing hearing in all environments. Not only does this transform hearing health, but it offers countless benefits that are life changing. This includes strengthening communication, improving relationships, enriching social life, and enhancing overall health. These benefits also lead to savings on healthcare costs. Contact us today to schedule a consultation!