JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery
Bottom Line: Two studies and two commentaries examine the association of untreated hearing loss with health care use, costs and other health conditions.
What: More than 38 million adults in the United States experience hearing loss; however, fewer than 20 percent report using hearing aids. In one study, researchers examined health care use and costs over 10 years among about 4,700 adults 50 and older with and without untreated hearing loss who were included in a health insurance database. Researchers report untreated hearing loss was associated with more hospitalizations, increased risk of 30-day hospital readmission, increased risk of emergency department visits and longer hospital stays. Over a 10-year period, people with untreated hearing loss incurred an average of $22,000 more in health care costs than people without hearing loss. Limitations of the study are inherent to using claims data, including data coding processes designed for billing not research.
Authors: Nicholas S. Reed, Au.D., Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. Baltimore, and coauthors
What: Another data analysis of the same group of adults examined the association between a diagnosis of hearing loss and other health conditions. Researchers report hearing loss was associated with an increased 10-year risk of a range of health conditions, including dementia, depression, falls and heart attack. More studies are needed to understand the reasons underlying these associations and whether treatment for hearing loss might reduce risk for these conditions.
Authors: Jennifer A. Deal, Ph.D., Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, and coauthors