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

For years, researchers have been considering the effect hearing loss has on a person’s health. A new study takes a different approach by looking at what untreated hearing loss can do to your healthcare budget. As the cost of healthcare continues to escalate, the medical community and consumers are looking for ways to lower these expenses. A study published on November 8, 2018, says something as simple of managing your hearing loss can make a significant difference.

How Hearing Loss Affects Health

Untreated hearing loss comes with hidden risks, according to 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:

  • A person with slight hearing loss doubles their risk of dementia
  • Someone with moderate hearing loss triples their risk of dementia
  • An individual with a severe hearing impairment has five times the risk of developing dementia

The study showed that when a person suffers from hearing loss, their brain atrophies at a faster rate. The brain has to work harder to do things like maintaining balance, and that puts stress on it that can lead to damage.

Poor hearing has an impact on quality of life, too. A person who can’t hear 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 not dealing with hearing loss is a budget buster, too. This study was also led by researchers from Johns Hopkins in collaboration with AARP, the University of California San Francisco and Optum Labs.

They analyzed data for more than 77,000 to 150,000 patients over the age of 50 who had untreated hearing loss. Just two years after the diagnosis of hearing loss, patients generated almost 26 percent more health care costs than individuals with normal hearing.

That number continues to grow as time goes by. After ten years, healthcare costs go up by 46 percent. When you break those numbers down, they add up to and average of $22,434 per person.

The study lists factors involved in the increase such as:

  • Dementia
  • Cognitive decline
  • Falls
  • Depression
  • Lower quality of life

A second companion study conducted by Bloomberg School indicates a connection between untreated hearing loss and higher morbidity. They also found that people with untreated hearing loss had:

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

Those numbers correlate with the study by Johns Hopkins study.

Hearing Loss is on the Rise

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

  • Currently, two to three out of every 1,000 children has hearing loss.
  • Around 15 percent of young people aged 18 have difficulty hearing.
  • About 2 percent of those aged 45 to 54 are significantly deaf.
  • As many as 8.5 percent of 55-to-64-year-olds have hearing loss.

The number goes up to 25 percent for those aged 65 to 74 and 50 percent for anyone over the age of 74. Those numbers are expected to rise in the future. By the year 2060, as many as 38 million people in this country may have hearing loss.

The study doesn’t touch on how wearing hearing aids can change these numbers, though. What they do know is that wearing hearing aids can eliminate some of the health problems associated with hearing loss. Further studies are necessary to determine if wearing hearing aids lowers the cost of healthcare. It’s safe to say there are more reasons to wear them than not.