There are presently over 37 million Americans with hearing loss according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD). This staggering figure is alarming when you consider the effects that an untreated hearing loss can have not just on communication but on general health and safety as well. Now, it seems that health is not the only risk involved with untreated hearing loss. New research is suggesting an increase in healthcare costs for those with untreated hearing loss.
Consequences Of Untreated Hearing Loss
The ability to hear naturally declines with age. If this hearing loss is left untreated, it may pose three major health problems for those affected.
- Ineffective communication. Not being able to understand what others are saying affects one’s personal and professional relationships dramatically. Misunderstood directions and constant repetition takes a toll on relationships.
- Cognitive diminishment. Researchers have established a relationship between hearing loss and dementia risk. The degree of hearing loss affects the risk of dementia.
- Social Isolation. Surveys show that those with hearing loss who do not use hearing aids tend to avoid social situations. This type of isolation causes poor health and depression especially among the elderly.
Not treating a hearing loss can negatively impact one’s health. However, poor health is not the only result of untreated hearing loss. Studies are now showing that an untreated hearing loss can affect your wallet too.
Higher Health Care Cost
The physical and emotional problems associated with untreated hearing loss are well-documented. However, new research is adding increased health care costs to that list as well. It seems that older adults with untreated hearing loss build up higher total health care costs than those who don’t have a hearing loss. In a study that followed individuals for up to ten years, the research team found that hearing loss increases health care costs up to an average of 46 percent higher than those without a hearing loss.
The research compares the costs of healthcare for 562,000 privately insured individuals between the ages of 55 and 64. Some of the participants have a hearing loss while others in the group do not. Over 18 months the team found healthcare costs for those with a hearing loss to be much higher than those without a hearing loss. The increase in expense was the most significant for those with untreated hearing loss.
Why Does Untreated Hearing Loss Cost More?
Although the study does not explain why untreated hearing loss increases the use of health care, the research team does have two theories that may explain the phenomena:
- Association with other serious health problems. It is well-documented that untreated hearing loss significantly increases the risk of falls, depression, and dementia which can lead to an increase in healthcare costs.
- Intrusion with the patient and healthcare professional communication process. A patient with a hearing loss has difficulty understanding and communicating with healthcare providers. This lack of communication can lead to poor outcomes and return hospital visits.
Take Care Of Your Hearing
These findings are yet another good reason to take care of your hearing. Make an appointment with a hearing healthcare professional today. A hearing evaluation can identify hearing problems and provide a framework for proper treatment. Taking care of your ears will benefit your overall health and financial well-being.