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

The impact hearing loss has on general health has been examined for years. New research approaches it from a different angle by evaluating what untreated hearing loss can do to your healthcare spending. As the expense of healthcare continues to escalate, the medical community and consumers are searching for ways to lower these costs. A study published on November 8, 2018, says something as simple as managing your hearing loss can make a significant difference.

How Hearing Loss Impacts Health

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

  • Dementia is five times more likely in somebody suffering from severe hearing loss
  • The chance of getting dementia is doubled in people with only minor hearing loss
  • Someone with moderate hearing loss triples their chance of getting dementia

The study reveals that the brain atrophies at a faster pace when a person suffers from hearing loss. The brain has to work harder to do things such as maintaining balance, and that puts stress on it that can lead to damage.

The inability to hear has an impact on quality of life, too. A person who doesn’t hear very well is more likely to feel anxiety and stress. Depression is also more common. All these things add up to higher medical expenses.

The Newest Study

The newest study published November in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) shows that not dealing with hearing loss is a budget buster, also. This study was also run by experts from Johns Hopkins in collaboration with AARP, the University of California San Francisco and Optum Labs.

77,000 to 150,000 patients with untreated hearing loss were analyzed. People with normal hearing generated 26 percent less health care expenses than people who were recently diagnosed with hearing loss.

That number continues to grow over time. Over a decade, healthcare costs go up by 46 percent. Those figures, when broken down, average $22,434 per person.

The study lists factors involved in the increase including:

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

A link between untreated hearing loss and a higher rate of mortality is suggested by a second study done by the Bloomberg School. They also uncovered that people with untreated hearing loss also suffered from:

  • 3.2 more diagnoses of dementia per 100 over the course of 10 years
  • 3.6 more falls
  • 6.9 more diagnoses of depression

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:

  • Hearing loss currently effects 2 to 3 out of every 1,0000 children
  • Around 2 percent of those at the ages of 45 to 54 are significantly deaf
  • The basic act of hearing is challenging for about 15 percent of young people aged 18
  • As many as 8.5 percent of 55-to-64-year-olds have hearing loss

For those aged 64 to 74 the number rises to 25 percent and for people over 74 it rises to 50 percent. In the future, those figures are anticipated to go up. As many as 38 million people in this country might have hearing loss by the year 2060.

Wearing hearing aids can alter these numbers, though, which the study doesn’t indicate. What they do understand is that using hearing aids can prevent some of the health issues associated with hearing loss. To figure out whether using hearing aids diminishes the cost of healthcare, further research is needed. It seems obvious there are more reasons to use them than not. Schedule an appointment with a hearing care specialist to see if hearing aids are right for you.

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