People in Portland with hearing loss are already at a disadvantage for many reasons. A new study shows their condition doesn’t only affect their health – it also hits them in the pocketbook.
The Hidden Costs of Hearing Loss
Researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health surveyed 77,000 patients suspected of having untreated hearing loss, analyzing their health care costs over three pre-determined intervals: two years, five years and ten years. These individuals were all enrolled in private health plans or Medicaid Advantage between 1999 and 2016. The results were telling: older adults with untreated hearing loss in Portland and across the U.S. can expect to incur $22,434 more in health care expenses over a ten-year period than people with normal hearing.
Differences in health care costs were noted as early as two years following the initial diagnosis. Untreated hearing loss at this point costs patients on average 26 percent more – and the disparity only rises. By year 10, these same individuals can expect to pay 46 percent more in health care costs than their normal-hearing peers. Even though insurance helps offset some of the costs, they still end up paying $2,030 more in out-of-pocket costs over this time period.
Untreated hearing loss affects more than just the bank account. These same patients experienced 50 percent more hospital stays, 44 percent more hospital readmissions within 30 days of discharge, 17 percent more emergency room visits and 52 more outpatient visits compared to those with normal hearing.
The Connection Between Untreated Hearing Loss and Higher Costs
If the disparity in costs surprises you, you’re not alone; researchers were taken aback, as well. The exact reason for such a discrepancy isn’t clear, but there are plenty of theories. For starters, there is a well-established correlation between hearing loss and a variety of other physical, social and psychological health problems – a list that includes depression, diabetes, cognitive impairment and an increased risk of falls, all of which will drive up medical costs. Additionally, patients with poor hearing often have trouble communicating their symptoms to a health professional, making it less likely they’ll receive the treatment they need. The conclusion is simple: untreated hearing loss is costly in more ways than one. If you or a loved one suspects hearing loss, schedule an appointment with an audiologist in Portland as soon as possible.