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

For a long time, experts have been thinking about the effect hearing loss has on a person’s health. New research takes a different approach by looking at what untreated hearing loss can do to your healthcare spending. Individuals, as well as the medical profession, are searching for methods to reduce the rising costs of healthcare. A study published on November 8, 2018, says a solution as basic as taking care of your hearing loss can make a significant difference.

How Hearing Loss Affects Health

There are hidden risks with untreated hearing loss, as reported by Johns Hopkins Medicine. Researchers spent 12 years tracking adults with anywhere from mild to severe hearing loss and found it had a significant impact on brain health. For example:

  • Dementia is five times more likely in somebody who has severe hearing loss
  • Someone with moderate hearing loss triples their chance of getting dementia
  • Someone with minor hearing loss has two times the risk of dementia

The study showed that when someone suffers from hearing loss, their brain atrophies faster. The brain is put under stress that can lead to injury because it has to work harder to do things like maintaining balance.

The inability to hear has an effect on quality of life, as well. A person who can’t hear very well is more likely to feel anxiety and stress. They are also prone to depression. All these factors add up to higher medical costs.

The Newest Study

The newest study published November in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) shows that it starts to be a budget breaker if you decide not to take care of your hearing loss. The University of California San Fransisco, Johns Hopkins with AARP, and Optum Labs also led this study.

They examined data from 77,000 to 150,000 people over the age of 50 who had untreated hearing loss. People with normal hearing generated 26 percent less health care expenses compared to people who were recently diagnosed with hearing loss.

That number continues to grow over time. After a ten year period, healthcare expenses increase by 46 percent. Those numbers, when broken down, average $22,434 per person.

Some factors that are associated with the increase are:

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

A second associated study conducted by Bloomberg School suggests a link between untreated hearing loss and higher morbidity. They also found that people with untreated hearing loss also suffered from:

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

Those stats correlate with the study by Johns Hopkins.

Hearing Loss is Increasing

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

  • At this time, between two and three of every 1,000 children has loss of hearing
  • As many as 8.5 percent of 55-to-64-year-olds have hearing loss
  • Approximately 15 percent of young people aged 18 have difficulty hearing
  • About 2 percent of individuals at the ages of 45 to 54 are significantly deaf

For those aged 64 to 74 the number rises to 25 percent and for people over 74 it goes up to 50 percent. Those numbers are anticipated to rise over time. As many as 38 million individuals in this country may have hearing loss by 2060.

Using hearing aids can change these figures, though, which the study doesn’t show. What they do know is that using hearing aids can eliminate some of the health problems associated with hearing loss. To figure out whether using hearing aids lessens the cost of healthcare, additional studies are needed. It seems obvious there are more reasons to use them than not. To learn whether hearing aids would help you, schedule an appointment with a hearing care professional right now.

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