Hearing loss already extracts a heavy cost for patients in Tucson and across the country, especially when left untreated. It makes everyday communication difficult and negatively impacts physical, psychological, and social health. Your wallet or purse will also take a hit; research shows there’s a literal cost to untreated hearing loss, as well.
The High Costs of Hearing Loss
A brand new study released November 8 by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health reveals the high cost of untreated hearing loss. The exact figures are staggering: according to the report, older adults with untreated hearing loss in Tucson and elsewhere incur significantly higher health care costs than those without hearing loss. This disparity begins as soon as two years after their initial diagnosis, when health care costs are 26 percent higher; the gap only widens over time, reaching 46 percent after ten years. That amounts to $22,434 per person each decade. While health insurance picks up much of the cost, the patient is still on the hook for about $2,030 in out-of-pocket costs during this period. Importantly, the study did not look at patients who treat their hearing loss with hearing aids.
In order to examine this correlation, Dr. Nicholas Reed, Au.D., a faculty member with the Cochlear Center for Hearing and Public Health at the Bloomberg School and an instructor of audiology in the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and his colleagues identified 77,000 patients with suspected untreated hearing loss who were enrolled in private health plans and Medicaid Advantage plans between 1999 and 2016. Their health care costs were analyzed over three periods: at the two-year, five-year, and ten-year marks.
After ten years, these patients recorded 50 percent more hospital stays, had a 44 percent higher risk of hospital readmission within 30 days of discharge, were 17 percent more likely to visit the ER, and had 52 more outpatient visits than people without hearing loss.
Why Does Untreated Hearing Loss Cost So Much?
While researchers have no definitive information on the reason for such high costs associated with untreated hearing loss, theories abound. One of the biggest is the well-established link between hearing loss and increased incidences of other health problems such as depression, dementia, and falls.
Another possible factor is an inability to communicate effectively with their health care provider as a result of a hearing impairment. Patients might have trouble relaying their symptoms, and without proper treatment their conditions would worsen over time, driving up overall health care costs.
Regardless of the exact reasons, there is no doubt that untreated hearing loss is costly. If you or a loved one is experiencing hearing loss in Tucson, don’t delay seeking treatment. The sooner you contact your Tucson audiologist to seek help, the healthier you’ll be – and the more money you’ll save!