Individuals with hearing loss in Santa Barbara already have higher out-of-pocket costs than those with normal hearing. There’s no getting around the fact that the additional expenses associated with hearing loss add up! According to a new study, those costs are even higher for people with untreated hearing loss.
Higher Health Care Costs
A study released last month by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health shows the high cost of untreated hearing loss. In the report, older adults with untreated hearing loss in Santa Barbara and across the U.S. can expect to incur higher health care expenses than those without hearing loss. While this news might not come as a shock to many, the amount of the discrepancy is surprising: it comes out to $22,434 per person every decade.
The lead researcher for the study, Dr. Nicholas Reed, Au.D., teamed up with his colleagues to examine 77,000 patients with suspected untreated hearing loss. All were enrolled in either private health plans or Medicaid Advantage between 1999 and 2016. Their health care costs were analyzed over three pre-determined intervals: two, five, and ten years.
It didn’t take long for differences to pop up. Two years after the initial diagnosis, those with untreated hearing loss could expect to pay 26 percent more in health care costs. By the time the ten-year mark rolled around, the disparity reached an impressive 46 percent. Insurance helped defray much of the cost, but those patients still paid on average $2,030 more out-of-pocket. The costs were more than financial: patients with untreated hearing loss had more hospital stays (50 percent), hospital readmissions within 30 days of discharge (44 percent), emergency room visits (17 percent) and outpatient visits (52) compared to their peers with normal hearing.
The Correlation Between Untreated Hearing Loss and Higher Expenses
Dr. Reed and his colleagues can’t be certain why there is such a disparity in costs for those with untreated hearing loss, but they and other researchers have theories. Chief among them is the well-established link between hearing loss and other health problems such as depression, dementia, and falls. Another contributing factor: those with poor hearing have trouble communicating symptoms to their doctor, making it less likely they receive the necessary treatment, which in turn can drive up their health care costs. It’s a vicious circle, and one with serious repercussions.