Untreated hearing loss in the USA costs $133 billion each year

[Untreated hearing loss comes with a number of risks, both in terms of health and emotional wellbeing. When people choose leave their hearing loss untreated, they are risking their relationships, careers, and health. These costs not only affect the quality of one’s life but also could have financial implications.

The Cost of Hearing Loss

A new study from Brussels, Belgium estimates that disabling hearing loss in the USA costs around $133 billion each year. This figure averages around $9,100 per person with an untreated, disabling hearing loss. In the US, approximately 7% of all adults live with a disabling hearing loss. More than two out of three are not treated for their condition.

The costs are related to lower quality of life and higher unemployment among people with a disabling hearing loss. The cost does not even include extra health care costs caused by hearing loss.

A disabling hearing loss is defined by the Global Burden of Disease research group (GBD) as a hearing loss greater than 35dB on the better ear. These costs are associated with the illness that people incur from hearing loss, whether it is physical, emotional or mental.

The Risk of Hearing Loss

Certain illnesses can put you at risk of hearing loss or become exacerbated when you leave hearing loss untreated. For example, cardiovascular disease can put you at risk for low-frequency hearing loss. If you or your family has a medical history of this issue, you might have an undiagnosed hearing loss you haven’t noticed. Getting your hearing tested regularly can help recognize this issue before it begins to affect your life.

Those with diabetes are more at risk for hearing loss, as it can result in damage to blood vessels in the inner ear. People with diabetes should get their hearing checked more often than those who do not, as they are more likely to develop hearing loss at a younger age.

Untreated hearing loss can result in cognitive impairment, as certain parts of the brain deteriorate without aural stimulation. The brain overcompensates for gaps in hearing, leading to problems with concentration and fatigue. There are also indications that untreated hearing loss can accelerate dementia.

Social Implications

In both adults and children with hearing loss, the social consequences of going without treatment are wide-reaching. For children, this can come in the form of bullying or social isolation. These factors can have a serious, detrimental impact on their development as they grow up, and their self-esteem and education might suffer.

For adults, untreated hearing loss can affect careers, relationships, and friendships. It might be difficult to maintain friendships, and it might be difficult to find a happy, stable relationship when one party is suffering from hearing loss. Hearing loss can also cause people to miss opportunities in their career, whether directly or indirectly.

Emotional Effect of Hearing Loss

People with hearing loss report a higher level of fatigue at the end of the day, both physically and emotionally. They have to hyper-focus other senses to stay alert and wear themselves down to keep up with their friends and coworkers. This level of exhaustion can result in chronic fatigue, anxiety, and even depression. A person suffering from hearing loss might also worry that coworkers and friends are speaking badly of them behind their back. This can lead to a sense of loneliness and depression.

Treatment Helps

The report documents that the use of hearing aids and other hearing solutions improves health and increases quality of life. It also documents that people with an untreated, disabling hearing loss are at greater risk of social isolation, depression, cognitive decline and dementia, while people who treat their hearing loss do not experience a higher risk than people without hearing loss.

With a steadily aging population who live longer and longer and with an earlier onset of hearing loss due to increased noise exposure, this growth will increase even further in the years to come.

“If you think you might have a hearing loss, my best advice is to get your hearing checked.  If you suspect that you have hearing problems my best advice is that you get a real hearing test carried out by a hearing professional,” says Kim Ruberg, a study author. 

At Audibel, we provide comprehensive hearing tests and hearing aid fittings. Contact us today to get your hearing checked and get on the road to healthy hearing!