Study Shows Hearing Loss Will Likely Cost You More In Health Care Expenses


Untreated hearing loss in older adults affects more than just their ability to communicate. It can also increase their health care expenses.

A Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health study found that older adults with untreated hearing loss pay an average of 46 percent more (or $22,434 more) for health care over a decade, compared to those who have no hearing loss.

The study, published in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, saw differences as early as two years after diagnosis, with the patients who had untreated hearing loss showing a 26 percent increase in total health-care costs, more than half the difference found after 10 years. Of the 46 percent increase after 10 years, an average $20,403 of it was incurred by the patient’s health insurer and $2,030 by the patient in out-of-pocket costs, the study found.

The findings add to a growing body of research from Johns Hopkins and elsewhere showing the detriments of untreated hearing loss, which include a higher risk of dementia and cognitive decline, falls, depression and lower quality of life. It notes that hearing loss affects 38 million Americans, a number that’s expected to double by 2060. One in three Americans between 65 and 74 has hearing loss, and two-thirds of adults 70 and older have a clinically significant loss.

An in-depth analysis found that after 10 years patients with untreated hearing loss experienced about 50 percent more hospital stays, had about a 44 percent higher risk for hospital readmission within 30 days, were 17 percent more likely to have an emergency department visit and had about 52 more outpatient visits compared to those without hearing loss. And of the extra $22,434 in total health care costs, only about $600 was due solely to hearing loss-related care.

The study did not indicate why untreated hearing loss drives up health-care costs, but the release notes that a companion paper using the same data found that hearing loss is independently associated with “significantly greater” incidence of disease.  For example, 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 depression diagnoses per 100 people over 10 years.

Over 10 years, those with untreated hearing loss had an estimated 50 percent greater risk of dementia, 40 percent greater risk of depression, and almost 30 percent higher risk for falls compared to those without hearing loss.

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