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

The effect loss of hearing has on general health has been examined for years. A new study takes a different approach by looking at what untreated hearing loss can do to your healthcare spending. As the expense of healthcare keeps rising, the medical profession and individuals are searching for ways to lower these costs. A study put out on November 8, 2018, says something as basic as taking care of your hearing loss can help significantly.

How Hearing Loss Affects Health

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

  • Someone with moderate hearing loss triples their risk of dementia
  • The risk of dementia is doubled in people with only slight hearing loss
  • Somebody with a extreme hearing impairment has five times the chance of developing dementia

The study reveals that the brain atrophies at a faster pace when a person has hearing loss. The brain needs 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, as well. Stress and anxiety are more likely in a person who doesn’t hear well. Depression is also more likely. More expensive medical bills are the result of all of these issues.

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 led by researchers 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 examined. Individuals with normal hearing created 26 percent less health care expenses than people who were recently diagnosed with hearing loss.

As time goes by, this number continues to grow. Healthcare expenses go up by 46 percent after a ten year period. When you break those numbers down, they average $22,434 per person.

The study lists factors associated with the increase like:

  • Falls
  • Depression
  • Decline of cognitive ability
  • Lower quality of life
  • Dementia

A second associated study done by Bloomberg School indicates a link between untreated hearing loss and higher morbidity. They also found that people with untreated hearing loss had:

  • 3.6 more falls
  • In the course of ten years, 3.2 more cases of dementia
  • 6.9 more diagnoses of depression

Those numbers match with the study by Johns Hopkins.

Hearing Loss is Increasing

According to the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders:

  • Currently, between two and three of every 1,000 children has loss of hearing
  • Hearing loss is prevalent in 55 to 64 year olds at a rate of 8.5 percent
  • The basic act of hearing is difficult for around 15 percent of young people around the age of 18
  • There’s significant deafness in those between the ages of 45 to 54

The number goes up to 25 percent for those aged 65 to 74 and 50 percent for anyone above the age of 74. Over time, those figures are anticipated to go up. By the year 2060, as many as 38 million people in this country may have hearing loss.

Using hearing aids can change these numbers, though, which the study doesn’t show. What is known is that some health issues associated with hearing loss can be minimized by wearing hearing aids. To determine whether using hearing aids decreases the cost of healthcare, more research is necessary. There are more benefits to wearing them than not, without a doubt. To learn whether hearing aids would benefit you, make an appointment with a hearing care specialist right away.