Hearing loss linked to much higher healthcare costs

Older patients with hearing loss may also be losing something else: their money.

Patients between the ages of 55 and 64 with hearing loss had healthcare costs that were 33 percent higher than those without hearing loss ($14,165 vs. $10,629), according to a study published in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery. Researchers looked at an 18-month window using data on 561,764 patients. 

Moreover, among those patients who were diagnosed with a hearing loss, only 13 percent received any sort of services to address it, according to the study.

"This finding indicates that negative health-related effects of hearing loss, a condition that many consider simply an unavoidable result of aging, may manifest earlier than is generally recognized and may affect use of healthcare across the continuum of care," the study's authors said in a statement.

The underlying factors that lead to the observed cost differences and the extent to which early and successful use of hearing aids and other hearing loss interventions modify cost differences aren't clear.

The study's lead author, Annie M. Simpson of the Medical University of South Carolina, told AARP that the higher costs may be related to patients whose hearing loss may make it more stressful to communicate with their healthcare providers, which may lead them to avoid timely care.

Hospitals have come under criticism in recent years for not having enough services for deaf patients. In one instance, Cheshire Medical Center/Dartmouth-Hitchcock Keene in New Hampshire settled a suit five years ago regarding claims it discriminated against deaf patients.

To learn more:
- read the study abstract
- view the study statement
- here's the AARP article