As people age, we expect there to be a natural decline in their ability to hear. You have likely noticed this in older friends or family members as they began to experience hearing loss, and you may now be noticing it in yourself – or you can probably expect to in the future. If hearing loss goes untreated, it can lead to several other problems, including a decline in the person’s social life and greater stress levels.
However, untreated hearing loss comes with other unexpected problems. Did you know that older adults with untreated hearing loss incur higher healthcare costs over time? The difference is substantial – according to one study, individuals with untreated hearing loss incurred an average of 46 percent higher healthcare costs, totaling $22,434 over 10 years.
The study followed older adults for 10 years and tracked their healthcare costs in relation to their conditions. After only two years, the difference in healthcare costs between patients with likely untreated hearing loss and those without the condition became apparent.
Researchers noticed a difference between the two groups that went further than cost alone; within 10 years, individuals with untreated hearing loss experienced 50 percent more hospital stays, had an approximately 44 percent higher probability of being readmitted to the hospital within 30 days, had 52 percent more outpatient visits, and were 17 percent more likely to have an emergency department visit.
The difference in healthcare costs and the number of healthcare visits indicate the effects of untreated hearing loss. Older adults with untreated hearing loss are at a greater risk for falls, depression, dementia, cognitive decline, and lower quality of life. In fact, according to research, individuals with untreated hearing loss are at nearly 30 percent greater risk of falls, 40 percent greater risk of depression, and 50 percent greater risk of dementia. As more research is conducted in the field of hearing healthcare and the effects of hearing loss, it becomes more and more apparent that several serious health conditions are closely connected to hearing loss.
It has also been hypothesized that untreated hearing loss leads to higher healthcare costs and more visits because the hearing loss interferes with patient-provider communication. Patients with untreated hearing loss may not be able to express their symptoms, participate in discussions to develop a recommended healthcare plan, or follow instructions from their healthcare provider.
Researchers are eager to continue their research in this field to help ensure that older adults receive the care they need for hearing loss and the other effects of aging. With two-thirds of adults over the age of 70 experiencing clinically significant hearing loss, this problem affects millions of people. In the United States alone, hearing loss affects 38 million people, and with current aging trends, that number is expected to double by 2060.
The way to avoid higher healthcare costs and increased risk of other serious health conditions is simple: make sure you receive proper treatment for hearing loss. If you are unsure whether you or a loved one is experiencing hearing loss, contact our hearing practice today to schedule an appointment to be tested. By treating hearing loss, you can decrease your risk for conditions like depression and dementia, as well as lowering your future healthcare costs!