Patients with Untreated Hearing Loss Incur Higher Health Care Costs Over Time

Dr. Maria Wynens, Au.D.Hearing Loss, News

Dr. Maria Wynens, Au.D.
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Over the years, a growing body of research has provided us with significant information on the correlations of our overall health and well-being and untreated hearing loss. From Dr. Frank Lin and his team at Johns Hopkins, we’ve learned that there is a correlation between untreated hearing loss and an increased risk for developing dementia. Other studies have shown that untreated hearing loss leads to a higher rate of falls, accidents, and hospitalizations, as well as increased return visits to medical providers.

An important new study reveals that patients with untreated hearing loss incur higher health care costs over time. Read on to learn more.

Study: Patients with untreated hearing loss incur higher health care costs over time

A team of researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the AARP, the University of California-San Francisco, and OptumLabs reveals that patients with untreated hearing loss incur substantially higher total health care costs compared to patients that do not have a hearing loss. After tracking data compiled over a full 10 years, results show that patients with untreated hearing loss average 46% higher medical costs – $22,434 per person over a decade.

More significantly, researchers found that just after two years of diagnosis, patients with hearing loss were already incurring more medical costs than those with normal hearing. In the first two years, patients with hearing loss were incurring nearly 26% more in total health care costs; after 10 years, this percentage increased to 46%. It is important to note that this study did not include statistics on people who do treat their hearing loss with the use of hearing aids.

Recently published in the publication JAMA Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery­, this study reiterates something many people in the hearing health industry already understand to be true: that untreated hearing loss comes with many detrimental effects, especially over the long term.

Methods of the Study

This study was led by Nicholas S. Reed, audiologist and member of the core faculty of the Cochlear Center for Hearing and Public Health at the Bloomberg School. Reed and his team used data from OptumLabs Data Warehouse, which gave them access to both private US health insurance and Medicare Advantage claims spanning the years of 1999 to 2016. In this study, Reed and his team identified that more than 77,000 people with presbycusis (age-related hearing loss) and excluded people who used hearing aids.

With this pool of subjects, Reed and his team then matched the patients with other claims, which included inpatient hospitalizations and readmissions within 30 days, emergency department visits, days with at least one outpatient visit, and healthcare costs. They tracked these claims over two, five, and ten-year periods.

Significantly, Reed and his team found that at the 10-year mark, “patients with untreated hearing loss experienced about 50 percent more hospital stays, had about a 44 percent higher risk for hospital readmission within 30 days, were 17 percent more likely to have an emergency department visit and had about 52 more outpatient visits compared to those without hearing loss.” This resulted in an extra $22,434 expenditure per year.

Even more significantly, Reed and his team delved into the $22,434 number and found that the total cost of hearing loss related services within this 10-year period was only $600.

A Correlation Between Untreated Hearing Loss and Higher Healthcare Costs

Reed and his team suggest that untreated hearing loss does have a relationship with other health issues, and another team of researchers, using the same data from OptumLabs, look deeper into comorbidities related to hearing loss.

Dr. Jennifer A. Deal, an assistant scientist in the Bloomberg School’s Department of Epidemiology, worked with a team that dissected the comorbidities related to untreated hearing loss. They found that “compared to those with hearing loss, those with untreated hearing loss had 3.2 more dementia diagnoses, 3.6 more falls, and 6.9 more depression diagnoses per 100 people over 10 years. Over 10 years, those with untreated hearing loss had an estimated 50 percent greater risk of dementia, 40 percent greater risk of depression, and an almost 30 percent higher risk for falls compared to those without hearing loss.”

Treat Your Hearing Loss with Atlanta Hearing Doctor

Untreated hearing loss brings significant consequences to our overall health and well-being. It is important to seek treatment for hearing loss as early as possible. If you are concerned about your hearing abilities – or that of a loved one – contact us at Atlanta Hearing Doctor today. We provide comprehensive hearing services, from tests to fittings.