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Hearing loss is part of a complicated vortex of health conditions, and many of these interrelated health issues remain somewhat misunderstood. For instance, although it is statistically demonstrated that hearing loss has a link with dementia, it is unclear how and why this connection exists. Researchers and health care professionals ask themselves if the two conditions simply coexist in older adults or if hearing loss causes dementia to have an earlier onset and quicker decline. Although some of these details remain to be discovered, a recent study by the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health revealed that those who have untreated hearing loss are likely to have much higher health care costs.
Higher Costs with Hearing Lost
Those who have untreated hearing loss have an average health care cost that is far above that of their counterparts who have healthy hearing. The longitudinal study found that over a decade older adults with untreated hearing loss had 46 percent higher health care costs, totaling $22,434 per person over that decade. Not only were costs higher over the decade, but the effect could be witnessed within two years. The effects of hearing loss on other aspects of health were striking, and these older adults had overall more need for health services.
How Were These Costs Incurred?
Although these effects were clearly demonstrated in the study, it remained somewhat unclear in what way the costs were incurred. By matching those with untreated hearing loss with demographic counterparts who did not have hearing loss, researchers were able to identify which types of health care costs were incurred. Over the ten years of the study, 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. These types of costs covered a wide range of services, not only related to emergencies but also to regular health care. Further research was necessary to discover which kinds of health conditions were related to the additional costs.
What Conditions Might Have Caused the Costs?
In order to discover how this worked, a companion paper was published alongside the central study. In this paper, Jennifer A. Deal, PhD, an assistant scientist in the Bloomberg School’s Department of Epidemiology, showed that untreated hearing loss was associated with significantly greater morbidity. Those with untreated hearing loss were paired with other older adults of similar demographic characteristics. According to this model, those with untreated hearing loss had 3.2 percent more dementia diagnoses, 3.6 percent more falls, and 6.9 percent more depression diagnoses over 10 years. When these rates of incidence were converted into “risk” statistics, the results were even more striking. Those with untreated hearing loss had an estimated 50 percent greater risk of dementia, 40 percent greater risk of depression, and almost 30 percent higher risk for falls compared to those without hearing loss. As you can see, these conditions included emergency care, such as that related to a fall, as well as regular health care, such as that related to depression and dementia. Some of the additional health care costs had to do with residential issues, such as dementia treatment, while others had to do with periodic visits to health care professionals, such as treatment for depression.
Visit Us at South Shore Hearing Center
With this information about the higher costs of health care for those with untreated hearing loss, it should come as no surprise that you should seek out treatment! Although the linkages between hearing loss and other health conditions remain somewhat unknown, treatment for hearing loss has myriad benefits for your life, well-being, peace of mind, and physical health. When you have treatment for your hearing loss, you should have no problem hearing and understanding the world around you in ways that can preserve your mental and physical health, preventing the potential conditions that so many others encounter. Take the opportunity to schedule a hearing test right away, and have a consultation with our team at South Shore Hearing Center!