Untreated Hearing Loss Comes With Unexpected Problems—Like Higher Healthcare Costs

Be Your Own Biggest Advocate: Why We Aren’t Taking Our Hearing Loss Seriously
December 20, 2019
Healthcare costs

Healthcare costs

Starting a new year means many things, including a new healthcare plan or plan renewal.

Regardless of whether you select a new plan or renew your existing plan, your mind is certainly directed towards the potential medical costs that could come up this year.

Maybe you have some medical costs that you are already aware of, such as a planned procedure or ongoing treatment for an existing condition. However, many people incur healthcare costs throughout the year that they do not foresee at the beginning of the year.

For those with untreated hearing loss, those annual costs may be higher than expected. In fact, a 2018 study found that patients with untreated hearing loss incur higher healthcare over time than those who do not have hearing loss. The study found that within two years, those with the untreated hearing loss incurred healthcare costs that were an average of nearly 26 percent greater than those without hearing loss. In a period of 10 years, that gap widened to 46 percent. This 46 percent difference amounted to $22,434 per person.

During this 10-year period, patients with untreated hearing loss experienced an average of 50 percent more hospital stays, were 17 percent more likely to have an emergency department visit, had a 44 percent higher likelihood for hospital readmission within 30 days of discharge, and had 52 percent more outpatient visits than those without hearing loss.

The findings of this study indicate a great deal about the healthcare needs and costs of patients with untreated hearing loss. While the exact cause of the healthcare cost difference between those with untreated hearing loss and those without hearing loss is under speculation, two main theories have emerged.

The first possible cause for the higher healthcare costs is that untreated hearing loss is tied to a number of other medical problems. In the 10-year period investigated in this study, patients with untreated hearing loss had a 50 percent greater risk for dementia, 40 percent greater risk for depression, and nearly 30 percent higher risk for falls than patients without hearing loss. Because patients with untreated hearing loss are at a greater risk for these associated conditions, they are more likely to incur greater healthcare costs.

The second theory is that patients with untreated hearing loss are less able to effectively communicate with their healthcare providers. The patient may not be able to properly communicate their symptoms to their doctor or to participate in conversations aimed at developing a plan for their health. Untreated hearing loss may also lead the patient to misunderstand or not hear discharge instructions, which can lead to a greater likelihood for more outpatient and hospital visits.

To avoid incurring higher healthcare costs and to lower your risk for associated health problems, we encourage you to have your hearing tested and to take action to treat hearing loss. We invite you to contact our hearing healthcare practice today to learn more and to schedule your visit with our hearing professional. We look forward to taking care of you!

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