Hearing loss treatment is an investment, and more than ever before, new studies are showing that treating your hearing loss is worth it – for quality of life, potential earning, and avoiding larger medical expenses down the line.
A new study from John Hopkins University makes the point explicitly clear. After following subjects for a full decade, patients with untreated hearing loss incurred 46% more healthcare expenses than subjects with healthy hearing – a difference that adds up to over $22,400 over the span of a decade.
A Big Effect
The recent John Hopkins study represents more than a decade of research into the repercussions of untreated hearing loss. Looking at study subjects with both healthy hearing and untreated age-related hearing loss, the research tracked total healthcare expenses and hospital stays over a ten-year span.
The scientific team used healthcare data to analyze expenditures on healthcare after 2, 5 and 10 years. A gap in expenses emerged early. After only 2 years, people with untreated hearing loss were accruing 26% more health expenses. By ten years, that gap had grown far more pronounced. While over the span of ten years, subjects with healthy hearing had on average $48,750 of medical costs. People with age related hearing loss averaged around $71,150 for the same time period. Again, that’s 46% more health care costs than those with healthy hearing, indicating that failing to address hearing loss has ongoing ramifications for your overall health.
Hearing Loss and Overall Health
Why does untreated hearing loss have such an outsized impact on our overall health expenses? The answer lies in how deeply our hearing is tied to our cognitive functioning and social wellness. Hearing loss doesn’t just affect what you hear – it also puts strain on your mental and emotional health.
You may be surprised to learn that of the $22,400 in extra medical costs people with hearing loss incurred only $600 of that total, on average, are expenses directly tied to hearing loss healthcare. What accounts for the additional $21,800? Researchers cite the many health conditions that can be exacerbated by unaddressed hearing issues. Untreated hearing loss makes people more vulnerable to dementia, cognitive decline, falling accidents, depression, anxiety and social isolation. Hearing loss has also been correlated with an elevated likelihood of other serious health conditions like diabetes and heart disease.
Your Hearing and Your Brain
When you can’t hear well, you place stress on the cognitive functioning of your brain. Your mind has to work harder and longer to piece together context and meaning from the fragments of what you can hear. To do this, the mind has to pull cognitive resources away from other tasks and direct them instead towards the effort to process and understand incoming sounds.
When hearing loss goes unaddressed you are shortchanging the rest of your cognitive functioning. This has widespread health effects. When focus is redirected to hearing, even fundamental cognitive processes can be pushed aside, such as our balance and coordination. People with untreated hearing loss are far more likely to have a serious falling accident than people with healthy hearing. Hearing loss can tip the balance of our overall cognitive health, significantly increasing the risk of developing dementia and exacerbating cognitive problems.
Your Hearing and Your Quality of Life
The communication problems that go hand in hand with unaddressed hearing loss increase our risk of conditions that worsen our overall health and diminish our quality of life. Hearing loss can cause a person to drift away from the social patterns and communication tools they have for connecting with others, such as avoiding get-togethers and phone calls. This raises the risk of social isolation. Alongside isolation, the difficulty of navigating the world with hearing problems greatly increases anxiety. Communication and social issues are also behind a higher risk of depression and all the health issues that can stem from it.
Healthier Hearing Today
Truly, the role our hearing plays in overall health is critical, and the effects of unaddressed hearing loss certainly add up! Fortunately, hearing loss can be managed effectively with hearing aids and assistive devices. At Hearing Group, we see the impact of connecting people with hearing health solutions every day. If you’ve recently noticed a change in how you hear, now is the time to take action and schedule a hearing test. Want to find out more? Contact Hearing Group today!