The Hidden Health Care Costs of Untreated Hearing Loss

money and stethascope

Health care costs can be significantly higher for those with untreated hearing loss.

A whopping 48 million Americans have significant hearing loss, with severity raising overall with age and men having more hearing loss at a greater incidence than women. A total of 1 in 3 people in the U.S. between the ages of 65 and 74 are estimated to have hearing loss, and 2 and 3 adults age 70 years and older are estimated to have hearing loss.

If the hearing loss is left untreated, these Americans pay more for health care overall than others who have no hearing loss or who have had their hearing loss treated.

A new study led by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Healthrevealed that 46 percent of older adults who have untreated hearing loss will have much higher total health care costs compared to those without hearing loss.

The study followed a vast group of participants over a 10-year period, and found that individuals with untreated hearing loss would pay nearly $22,500 more in health care costs over that time span than their fellow study participants. How does this happen?

Just two years after the study started, the differences between those with untreated hearing loss and those with typical hearing were clear. Patients with hearing loss already totaled nearly 26 percent more in health care costs in those first two years.

The main cause of this higher cost of overall health care is thought to stem from the side effects of hearing loss, which when untreated can lead a higher risk of dementia and cognitive decline, one or more severe falls, depression and lower quality of life. 

After 10 years in the study, it was found that patients with untreated hearing loss typically had half as many hospital stays as the other individuals, were at 44 percent higher risk for readmission 30 days post-discharge from the hospital, were 17 percent more likely to visit an emergency department, and had an average of 52 more outpatient visits compared to study participants without hearing loss.

Based on the data, treating hearing loss with hearing aids or another appropriate treatment could reduce health care costs over time.

A new study led by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health revealed that 46 percent of older adults who have untreated hearing loss will have much higher total health care costs compared to those without hearing loss.