Over the past few decades we, as a society, have come to realize that hearing loss is a major health issue, one that can lead to an array of various other health issues. As a result, untreated hearing loss can become the baseline for extremely increased healthcare costs.

This and other relevant factors have caused Dr. Frank R. Lin (Cochlear Center for Hearing and Public Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health) and his colleagues to work to connect the links between untreated hearing loss to other major health issues.

Through their work together, the group has put forth two very large new healthcare studies. These studies have helped Lin and his colleagues to conclude that there is a very clear association between untreated hearing loss and an increased risk of dementia, depression, falls and even cardiovascular diseases. This is information that is a long time coming and will be used to help lobby insurance companies to include hearing healthcare coverage and more.

In one of the studies that covered 154,414 adults 50 and older who had health insurance claims, researchers at Johns Hopkins found that untreated hearing loss increased the risk of developing dementia by 50 percent and depression by 40 percent in just five years when compared to those without hearing loss.

Within 10 years, untreated hearing loss accounted for 3.2 percent of all cases of dementia, 3.57 percent of people significantly injured in a fall, and 6.88 percent of those seeking treatment for depression. Although these percentages seem small to us, they include a very large number of people considering how common these conditions are. In fact, these conditions are so common they are resulting in great personal, financial and societal costs.

Throughout these studies, Lin and his team identified that untreated hearing loss itself appeared to be the cause of additional associated health problems. What does this mean? Well, quite simply it means that hearing loss seems to be the underlying issue for many other health conditions to build upon. For insurance companies this means that by not covering hearing healthcare, they are in fact creating a type of petri dish where other health issues are encouraged to arise, which insurance companies do cover, increasing healthcare costs substantially.

Today there are approximately between 38 and 40 million Americans living with untreated hearing loss, a problem that becomes increasingly common and more severe with age. Our statistics show that hearing loss in this country happens near the age of 12 and increases from there. More than half of people in their 70s and more than 80 percent of people in their 80s have mild to moderate hearing loss or worse, this according to tests done by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between 2001 and 2010.

According to Jennifer A. Deal, an epidemiologist and gerontologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, “hearing loss itself is not very expensive, the effect of hearing loss on everything else IS expensive.”

The problem with many hearing devices is that even when people are tested and spend thousands of dollars to purchase needed hearing aids, the devices often sit somewhere not wore at all. Hearing Aids have the best outcome when they are fit to a person by a qualified AuD, or BCHIS.

“All aids are not created equal,” Dr. Lin said, “and even expensive, properly fitted aids can require multiple adjustments. Some people give up too readily to get the best results. Unrealistic expectations are a big part of this problem,” Dr. Lin said. “It’s not like putting on a pair of glasses that immediately enables you to see clearly. Hearing loss is not fixed as easily as eyesight. The brain needs time — a good month or two — to adjust to hearing aids. And the earlier hearing loss is treated, the easier it is for the brain to adapt.”

These new studies give excellent reasons for taking hearing loss seriously. At Physicians Hearing Solutions, our hearing healthcare professionals are fully licensed and trained in providing each patient with the best hearing healthcare options available. We want you to know you can trust that you are getting the highest quality hearing healthcare each time you come to see us. Our goal is to improve your quality of life through providing you with the quality hearing healthcare you deserve. We offer complimentary complete Diagnostic Hearing Evaluations. Please don’t wait, call today, (401) 921-0181 Warwick, Rhode Island office, (401) 435-5355 East Providence, Rhode Island office.

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