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

For a long time, researchers have been considering the effect loss of hearing has on a person’s health. A new study approaches it from a different angle by examining what untreated hearing loss can do to your healthcare spending. As the cost of healthcare continues to escalate, the medical community and individuals are looking for ways to lower these costs. A study published on November 8, 2018, says something as simple as managing your hearing loss can make a significant difference.

How Hearing Loss Impacts Health

There are hidden risks with untreated hearing loss, as reported by Johns Hopkins Medicine. Researchers spent 12 years following adults with anywhere from slight to severe hearing loss and found it had a considerable effect on brain health. For example:

  • Someone with moderate hearing loss triples their chance of getting dementia
  • The risk of dementia is doubled in people with only minor hearing loss
  • Dementia is five times more likely in somebody suffering from severe hearing loss

The study reveals that the brain atrophies at a faster rate when a person has hearing loss. The brain has to work harder to do things such as maintaining balance, and that puts stress on it that can lead to injury.

Poor hearing has an effect on quality of life, too. Stress and anxiety are more likely in a person who doesn’t hear well. Depression is also more common. More expensive medical bills are the result of all of these factors.

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.

77,000 to 150,000 patients with untreated hearing loss were examined. Just two years after the diagnosis of hearing loss, patients generated almost 26 percent more health care costs than people with normal hearing.

That amount continues to grow over time. Over a ten year period, healthcare expenses increase by 46 percent. When you break those numbers down, they add up to an average of $22,434 per person.

The study lists factors involved in the increase including:

  • Lower quality of life
  • Dementia
  • Falls
  • Depression
  • Decline of cognitive ability

A connection between untreated hearing loss and a higher rate of mortality is indicated by a second study done by the Bloomberg School. Some other findings from this study are:

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

The study by Johns Hopkins correlates with this one.

Hearing Loss is on the Rise

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

  • Approximately 15 percent of young people 18 years old have a hard time hearing
  • Around 2 percent of those at the ages of 45 to 54 are significantly deaf
  • As many as 8.5 percent of 55-to-64-year-olds have hearing loss
  • Loss of hearing currently effects 2 to 3 out of every 1,0000 children

For those aged 64 to 74 the number rises to 25 percent and for people over 74 it goes up to 50 percent. Those numbers are predicted to rise in the future. As many as 38 million individuals in this country could have hearing loss by the year 2060.

The study doesn’t mention how using hearing aids can change these numbers, though. What they do understand is that wearing hearing aids can get rid of some of the health problems associated with hearing loss. Further studies are required to determine if wearing hearing aids decreases the cost of healthcare. There are more reasons to wear them than not, undoubtedly. Make an appointment with a hearing care professional to see if hearing aids help you.

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