Kevin T. Barlow, Au.D.
Disabling hearing loss, when left untreated, exacts a cost in lost quality of life and lost wages, according to an article published in The Hearing Review.
The article, “Untreated Disabling Hearing Loss Costs Billions — in the U.S. and the Rest of the World,” suggests that in the United States, 14.6 million people live with disabling, untreated hearing loss. The cost in lost quality of life and wages totals $133 billion per year, or $9,100 for each of these people each year. This doesn’t even account for the health care costs associated with untreated hearing loss.
These findings were extrapolations from the results of a large meta-analysis about the European Union, “Hearing Loss — Numbers and Costs,” commissioned by the nonprofit organization Hear-It. For that study, the researchers used data on adults and people of working age from the Global Burden of Disease program as well as data from the International Monetary Fund, Trading Economics, and EuroTrak.
That study found that disabling hearing loss (that is, loss ≥35 dB) affects 34.4 million people in the European Union, resulting in lost quality of life and wages totaling $210 billion.
Given the demographic and economic similarities between the U.S. and the EU, despite the differences among the countries’ health care systems, for the present article the author applied a similar methodology for the U.S.
Armed with those numbers and data from other studies, the author lays out a comparison of the EU and the U.S.:
In both the EU and the U.S., most people who have a hearing loss don’t use hearing aids. The U.S., however, has a greater percentage that forego hearing aids — 70% compared to the EU’s 65%.
Whether because of early retirement, less demanding jobs, or higher rates of unemployment, those with hearing loss in both the EU and the U.S. earn significantly less than those with normal hearing. In the U.S., those with untreated hearing loss stood to lose as much as $30,000 annually.
Untreated hearing loss has negative health consequences, such as depression, loneliness, social isolation, fatigue, reduced physical activity, strained relationships, cognitive decline, and dementia. The EU study even suggests hearing loss impacts quality of life more than many other chronic health conditions.
Adding in the average increase in health care costs for someone with untreated hearing loss — $22,434 over 10 years, according to a Johns Hopkins study — underscores the importance of recognizing and treating hearing loss as soon as possible.
Don’t wait! If you or a loved one are struggling to hear clearly, Winter Haven Audiology and Ridge Audiology are here to help. Give our team of hearing care professionals a call today at (863)594-1976 to schedule your appointment.
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