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HEARING AIDS BRING ENORMOUS BENEFITS FOR SOCIETY - CONCLUDES PILOT STUDY

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Brussels- A cost-effectiveness study on the impact of hearing impairment on society shows hearing aids improve quality of life of hearing impaired people by up to 15 % and are highly cost efficient.

The study demonstrates that the reimbursement of the cost of hearing aids represents an excellent return on investment. Hearing aids were among the top ten cost efficient medical interventions alongside anti-smoking campaigns and breast cancer screening. This also means that individuals who buy them get good value for their money.

"This study clearly indicates that governments across Europe should continue to reimburse hearing aids, ensuring better quality of life for older citizens," said Valentin Chapero president of the European Hearing Instrument Manufacturers Association (EHIMA). "Despite its prevalence and the adverse effect it can have on daily life, hearing impairment remains a neglected and under-reported health problem. With Europe's ageing demographics and the implications this has on the prevalence of hard of hearing, Governments are going to have to sit up and take notice."

The study, presented at the World of Hearing Conference in Brussels was carried out by the Societal Impact of Hearing Impairment study group at Maastricht University (SIHI-study), on behalf of EHIMA.

THE EXTENT OF HEARING IMPAIRMENT

Today, hearing impairment is found in up to 20% of adults (some 52 million people in Europe) and in 36% of people aged 55 years and older. Due to the ageing population in Europe, the overall prevalence of hearing impairment is likely to rise to some 30% of people in the next century.

Hearing impairment has a significantly detrimental effect on quality of life. It affects communication with family, friends and colleagues and can result in social isolation, depression, loss of employment, cognitive dysfunction, reduced self-reliance and loss of independence. Clearly, the conservation and optimalisation of hearing will lead to a better quality of life among the population as it grows older.

LESS THAN ONE QUARTER OF HEARING IMPAIRED PEOPLE SEEK HELP

It is estimated that less than one quarter of hearing impaired people seek help and that an even smaller number actually acquire hearing aids. Throughout Europe it seems that limited resources are made available to address the problem of hard of hearing and provide adequate care and advice. It also appears that across Europe the reimbursement of hearing aids either has been or will be further reduced. Furthermore, already limited resources are becoming more and more restricted and audiological services have difficulty in coping with the growing number of hearing impaired patients. Across Europe we need better acknowledgement of hearing loss problems and awareness of the solutions which new digital technology can offer.

'THE SOCIETAL IMPACT OF HEARING IMPAIRMENT STUDY' (SIHI)(1)

The SIHI-study was designed to assess to what extent hearing aids improve the quality of life among hearing impaired people and thus to provide an economic evaluation of the fitting of hearing aids. The unique study provides the basis for comparisons world-wide and for further studies to be undertaken.

Methodology:
The prevalence of hearing impairment, self-reported hearing disability and the subsequent impact on the quality of life was studied in a population of citizens aged 55 years and older. The effectiveness of hearing aids in alleviating hearing disability and related dysfunctions was studied in first time users whose progress has been initially followed for a period of 16 weeks following the fitting of a hearing aid.

To facilitate the cost effectiveness study, a patient flow model was developed. This traced the process of a hearing impaired individual from referral through diagnoscs, fitting of hearing aids, evaluation of these fittings and the 'return to society'.

The model is based on data from existing sources such as epidemiological studies and expert opinions and from research at an individual patient level.

In the cost effectiveness study all potential costs and health effects associated with hearing aids as described in the model were incorporated. The health effect was expressed as a balanced and integrated overall value for the quality of life. This value, known as the utility value, yields a single number representing the net impact of the interventi-on on the quality of life. A utility value can range from 0 to 1 and allows the construction of Quality Adjusted Life Years (QALY's) by multiplying the utility value by the number of years the effect will last. The results of this economic evaluation were then used to compare the costs and effects of hearing aid fitting with various other healthcare interventions.

FINDINGS OF THE SIHI-STUDY

The study reveals that Quality of Life increases significantly with hearing aids. Already after 16 weeks an increase in the number and quality of social contacts was observed while a significant reduction in all aspects of hearing related disabilities was reported.

Hearing aids are highly cost effective:
The results of the comparison demonstrate that fitting hearing impaired adults with hearing aids is placed in the top 10 of a QALY league table - proving it to be a highly cost-effective intervention.

For more information, please contact:
L.J.C. Anteunis, Department of Otorhinolaryngology, Head & Neck Surgery, University Hospital Maastricht Tel : 00 31 43 38 77 588
Anne-Marie Wolters, Secretary General of EHIMA, Tel :0032 2/461
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(1)The Societal Impact of Hearing Impairment (SIHI) study-group is supported by EHIMA. The SIHI study-group consists of: Research Unit Patient Care, University Hospital Maastricht, Department of Otorhinolaryngology, Head & Neck Surgery, University Hospital Maastricht,
Maastricht Health Economics Research and Consultancy Agency, Maastricht,
Department of Quantitative Economics, Faculty of Economics and Business Administration, University of Maastricht, Audiological Centre Hoensbroeck, Health Centre Neerbeek,
Department of Otorhinolaryngology, University Hospital Aachen.

**Article posted courtesy of EHIMA,
the European Hearing Instrument Manufacturers Association.
http://www.ehima.com

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