The Costs of Untreated Hearing Loss

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The societal costs of hearing loss in America are staggering. Hearing loss contributes to vast increases in medical costs, precipitous decreases in earning potential, and incalculable psychological and social costs. However, treatment is available and costs can be significantly minimized.

Overall health is affected by brain health and hearing loss impacts brain health. People born with normal hearing have brains that depend on abundant, accurate sound signals. There are multiple costs when hearing loss prevents the brain from accurate functioning.

Brain imaging shows that untreated hearing loss appears to “starve” the brain’s auditory cortex. The images show it going dark and becoming unresponsive to any stimulus. Additionally, and alarmingly, this darkness often grows beyond the auditory cortex, “infecting” adjacent areas of the brain.

Research is revealing that hearing loss is accompanied by a long list of other ailments, including heart disease, memory loss, Alzheimer’s, paranoia, tinnitus, balance problems and intensification of most chronic diseases.  Insurance actuaries calculate that people with untreated hearing loss spend 25% to 33% more per year on health costs than their peers who have retained normal hearing.

The cost of untreated hearing loss is also seen on income levels. One study concluded, “Americans with moderate to severe hearing loss have an average negative impact on annual income of $12,000.”

Untreated hearing loss leads to loneliness, feelings of rejection and isolating behaviors. Family relationships are strained, friends are few and social skills become rusty.

Hearing loss sufferers are often in denial, seemingly blind to how high health costs and low earning potentials are swirling in a sad cycle together with ever-worsening psychological and social disfunctions.

Conversely, studies show that patients who receive treatment for hearing loss often stop this downward spiral. This is especially encouraging news during an epidemic where one new dementia case is reported every four seconds. The Journal of the American Geriatrics Society recently reported on two studies.  The first measured 3800 people for over 25 years and not only confirmed that hearing loss is associated with accelerated cognitive decline in older adults, but that hearing aid use offsets the decline. The second study followed 2,040 Baby Boomers for 18 years and found that the rate of cognitive decline was cut in half following cataract surgery and was reduced by 75% following the adoption and regular use of hearing aids.

The costs of treating hearing loss may seem high (a pair of premium aids is similar to the U.S. average one-night hospital stay and a pair of basic aids is similar to one night at Trump Tower in New York City).  That’s because hearing aids cannot be mass-produced. They must pass extensive FDA quality control procedures and each one requires rigorous customization to anatomy, level of hearing loss and comfort requirements. Furthermore, the performance of hearing aids can change over time; hearing losses change and even anatomies change. This is why the upfront cost of hearing aids should always include several years of cost-free ongoing care and re-fitting. Treating hearing loss may seem expensive, but the real cost lies in leaving it untreated.

If you would like to schedule an appointment to learn more about hearing aids in Montrose, Colorado, and to discuss treatments for hearing loss, our Hearing Aid Specialist, Brian Bennett, will be glad to see you for an exam and consultation. Call 970-318-2010 today to schedule your appointment.

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