For those in the deaf and hard of hearing community, hearing loss can be an expensive endeavor. With millions of Americans choosing to forgo hearing aids even though they can directly benefit, many are citing costs as the reason why. But penny-pinching when it comes to your hearing health may actually do more harm to your budget than good. A new study by the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health had found that older adults will incur substantially higher health care costs due to untreated hearing loss compared to hearing healthy adults and that the difference could be measured in as little as two years. Though the monetary cost can be significant, the price you ultimately pay for untreated hearing loss may be much worse for your health.
The number of those with hearing loss in America is expected to double by 2060, reaching severely epidemic proportions all on its own, but untreated hearing loss can lead to many more health complications as we age. Research conducted by Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical school concluded that there is an appreciably higher risk of cognitive decline in patients with hearing loss, and that risk became more severe in relation to the severity of their hearing loss. This cognitive decline, such as complications with memory and patterns of thinking, has been linked to brain changes that precede dementia. A wide array of studies have come to a similar consensus, with cognitive decline caused by reduced auditory stimulation as a result of hearing loss being directly linked to early signs of dementia.
On average, those with hearing loss will wait up to 10 years before seeking the help they require. Though many factors are responsible for this gap in treatment, the cost of hearing aids is cited as a large concern for many, with patients paying an average cost of $1,675 per ear for equipment, evaluation, and fittings. But ignoring your hearing health needs can create more complications as you age, incurring higher health care costs down the road. Not utilizing hearing aids with hearing loss can harm your discrimination of speech much quicker, thanks to the simple “use it or lose it” principle. The less you hear, the less stimulation that is being sent to your auditory cortex, causing your brain to become less active in processing sounds. Like other aspects of your body, your brain requires exercise to stay healthy, and hearing aids can keep your brain processing the sounds it is meant to hear for much longer.
Led by Nicholas Reed, Johns Hopkins University’s study had concluded that after a 10-year check-up, “patients with untreated hearing loss experienced about 50 percent more hospital stays, had about a 44 percent higher risk for hospital readmission within 30 days, were 17 percent more likely to have an emergency department visit and had about 52 more outpatient visits compared to those without hearing loss,” highlighting the true cost of complications presented by untreated hearing loss.
If you are experiencing hearing loss or feel that your hearing loss has gotten worse over time, it may be time to talk to a hearing health professional about your treatment options and the costs associated. Though hearing aids can take a bite out of your budget, conclusions presented by Johns Hopkins and numerous other institutions are clear: ignoring your hearing loss can cost you much more.