Hearing management

Updated 08 September 2016

Hearing loss tied to bigger medical bills for late middle-aged

Researchers say more study needed to learn how hearing aids and other interventions for hearing loss might save money

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Hearing loss is associated with higher medical costs for late middle-aged adults, a new study finds.

Researchers examined health care use by nearly 562,000 adults between the ages of 55 and 64 who had private insurance. They found that over 18 months, those with hearing loss had 33 percent higher health care costs (R 213518.96 on average) than those without hearing loss (R 160227.39)

However, the study only showed an association between hearing loss and higher medical costs, and not a cause-and-effect link.

Read: Hearing impairment in middle age

The study was published online April 7 in the journal JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery.

More than 60 percent of U.S. adults over the age of 70 have age-related hearing loss, and the rate of hearing loss triples between the ages of 50 and 60, the researchers said.

"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 health care across the continuum of care," study author Annie Simpson said in a journal news release.

Read: Can hearing aids reduce forgetfulness?

She is an assistant professor in the department of healthcare leadership and management at the Medical University of South Carolina, in Charleston.

The researchers said more study is needed to understand the reasons for the cost differences, and how much early use of hearing aids and other hearing loss remedies might lower costs.

"Nevertheless, our study suggests that hearing loss is costly, even in middle-aged individuals, and is present in large numbers of adults for whom early, successful intervention may prevent future hearing-related disabilities and decreased quality of life," the researchers concluded.

Read more: 

What is hearing loss? 

Symptoms of hearing loss 

Preventing hearing loss

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Hearing Expert

Francis Slabber is a Speech & Language Therapist and Audiologist who has owned and run The Hearing Clinic in Wynberg, Cape Town for the last 17 years. Francis and her team have extensive experience in fitting and supplying hearing aids as well as assistive living devices. Francis has served as the Western Cape Chairperson for the South African Association of Audiologists for three years and has given many talks on the topic of hearing loss and amplification. The Hearing Clinic has a special interest in adult and geriatric hearing impairment, hearing aid fittings and hearing rehabilitation.

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