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

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

In Health, hearing loss, News by Laurie Duffy, M.S.

Do you struggle to hear, and have difficulty communicating with family, friends, and colleagues? If you’ve been living with untreated hearing loss, you might not be too keen on seeking treatment. Like many Americans, you think struggling through a few conversations doesn’t seem too bad, and you don’t want to invest in hearing devices. But would you change your mind if you knew that those with untreated hearing loss incur high health care costs, and skipping the hearing aids could actually be costing you thousands of dollars?

Higher Health Care Costs

Researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine have been looking at how hearing loss affects health in a variety of ways. From reduced quality of life to higher rates of depression, those with hearing loss experience a lot of negative health outcomes. They’re more likely to suffer from heart disease, diabetes, rapid cognitive decline and even dementia.

Nicholas S. Reed, AuD, from the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the Cochlear Center for Hearing and Public Health at the Bloomberg School, decided to look into health care costs, and along with researchers at the University of California uncovered some astonishing facts. After accessing the OptumLabs Data Warehouse, and studying 10 years of data from hundreds of thousands of patients who accessed health care in the United States, they noticed some extreme trends.

The Numbers Don’t Lie

They found that those living with untreated hearing loss generated 46% higher health care costs than their hearing peers, and paid $22,434 more over the course of ten years!

Examining the 10 years of data showed that those with hearing loss had 52 more outpatient visits than those who could hear clearly, and were 17% more likely to visit the emergency department. They were admitted to hospital 50% more often, and had a 44% higher risk of readmission.

Why Does Hearing Loss Cost More?

Hearing loss isn’t just about struggling to hear when your spouse is telling you a story, or when you join your friends for dinner. Hearing loss also affects your balance and your mobility, and those with hearing loss are more likely to experience trips, falls, or accidents. With difficulty hearing sounds in your daily life, minor accidents could lead to a visit to your medical provider. Studies from Johns Hopkins have also found a correlation between untreated hearing loss and an increased risk for dementia – in part, due to social isolation which comes from untreated hearing loss, which is a major risk factor for dementia.

Another reason for higher health care costs is poor patient-provider communication. If you struggle to hear in your daily life, think about how much harder it would be to talk to a doctor in a crowded hospital, with echoing hallways, beeping machines, and chatting nurses right outside the room. When you’re not able to communicate effectively with your doctor, they might not fully understand your symptoms, and you may not be receiving the best care. And even if your doctor is able to provide an accurate diagnosis, you won’t be able to follow a treatment plan you haven’t heard the instructions. You won’t be able to work with your doctor to create a health plan, or follow your discharge instructions, and you risk higher rates of readmission.

Training Doctors to Communicate

As part of a new initiative at the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, Reed and others developed a pilot program to teach doctors to communicate more effectively with hard of hearing patients. They also improved the signs around the hospital, and even provided hearing amplification devices to patients. “Knowing that untreated hearing loss dramatically drives up health care utilization and costs,” says Reed, “will hopefully be a call to action among health systems and insurers to find ways to better serve these patients.”

HearCare in Rhode Island

If you have hearing loss, you’re one of nearly 40 million Americans struggling to hear. Don’t let the cost of hearing aids hold you back, but come see us today at HearCare to find out what a hearing device can do for you. We’ll find the perfect device that will fit your lifestyle, hearing needs, and budget, and help you save money on health care costs. Don’t waste another day, but get back to enjoying clear hearing.