Substantially higher healthcare costs for middle-aged adults with hearing impairment

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Hearing impairment may be expensive
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A US research team recently published the results of a study showing that people with a diagnosis of hearing loss had 33% higher healthcare payments over a 1.5-year time period compared to those without hearing loss (HL).

The researchers from the Medical University of South Carolina published these findings in the journal JAMA Otolaryngology Head & Neck Surgery in early April. They examined the costs of healthcare for a matched group of privately insured middle-aged adults from 55 to 64 years of age, with and without a diagnosis of HL, reports EurekAlert.

The results were based on healthcare bills for up to 18 months of follow-up after baseline by summing costs per patient to calculate total payments for inpatient services, outpatient services, prescription medication, and cost of hearing services. The study included a total of 561,764 individuals, 50% in each group. It was found that those with a diagnosis of HL had 33% higher healthcare payments at an average of USD 14,165 versus those without this diagnosis, with costs averaging USD 10,629.

“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 healthcare across the continuum of care. Studies are needed to identify the underlying factors that lead to the observed cost differences, as well as to ascertain the extent to which early and successful use of hearing aids and other hearing loss interventions modify cost differences,” say the researchers. The results are surprising because higher costs are generally thought to begin from 65 years of age and not in the middle-aged group studied here.

Source: EurekAlert; Simpson AN, et al. Higher Health Care Costs in Middle-aged US Adults With Hearing Loss. JAMA Otolaryngology Head & Neck Surgery. 2016 Apr 7

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