The Cost of Untreated Hearing Loss

When you get your hearing tested and discover that you’ve lost much of your upper register, the thing you might not want to hear is the cost of the hearing aids. Although many are surprised at what the most advanced hearing devices can cost, the financial, physical and emotional costs of struggling through life without them is likely to far exceed the initial outlay.

In a cost benefit analysis, Professor Robert Brent at Fordham University in New York found that the benefits of being fitted with hearing aids were exceptionally large relative to the costs. The benefit-cost ratio was over 30, which is to suggest that for every dollar spent treating hearing loss he found evidence for a more than thirty-dollar return. Factored into Professor Brent’s analysis was the impact of untreated hearing loss on cognitive decline and the associated costs.

Looking more specifically at the cost of untreated hearing loss, a recent study from researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health revealed that older adults with untreated hearing loss incur substantially higher total healthcare costs compared to those who don’t have hearing loss – an increase of around 46%. They calculated that it amounts to around $22,434 USD per person over a decade.


If you suffer with significant hearing loss, you have an increased risk of falls, mishaps and accidents. Studies show that even mild hearing loss when left untreated results in a 300 percent increased risk of falls for people between 40–69 years old. When you cannot hear properly, your environmental awareness is compromised, so you’re less likely to hear that bike or scooter whizzing past when you’re out walking.

As far back as 1999, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare reported that falls cost the Australian community $806 million a year in direct health system costs, which is more than double that of road traffic accidents. In addition, the rate of falls has increased annually and is the leading cause of injury deaths accounting for 37 percent of all deaths.

A study out of the University of Michigan analysing 115,000 healthy seniors who were newly diagnosed with hearing loss, found that 13 percent of them had been injured because of a fall within three years, compared to 7.5 percent of the general population their age.

To add insult to injury, the mental resources it takes to compensate for hearing loss leaves less capacity for the brain to attend to steadiness and balance. Impaired hearing places a strain on your brain, which means you have to concentrate harder to interpret sounds and speech. This takes cognitive resources away from the balance centres.

Out of harm’s way

With the stress and strain of trying to hear in all kinds of situations, is it any wonder that people give up and choose the less difficult path of a more isolated life? Many even cease seeking medical services because they are just too hard to manage. I’ve seen situations with my own patients where marriages have collapsed, and the frustrations they experience because they’re unable to communicate effectively with loved ones. Numerous studies over the past few decades have indicated untreated hearing loss significantly increases the risk of social isolation and loneliness.

Isolating from the world creates a downward spiral. Loneliness can have serious consequences. Recent research by the Centre for Disease Control indicates that loneliness can increase dementia risk by 50 percent and causes up to a 45 percent risk of premature death. There’s also a link between loneliness and coronary heart disease.

Wearing hearing devices all day may help avoid a hospital stay

If you were ever in any doubt, the research is certainly solid when it comes to making a case for wearing hearing aids. A study out of America investigating administrative claims from 1999 to 2016 examined more than 77,000 patients enrolled in private health plans. It demonstrated that among other things, patients with untreated hearing loss experienced about 50 percent more hospital stay and had about a 44 percent higher risk for hospital readmission within 30 days compared to those without hearing loss.

A subsequent study showed that untreated hearing loss is independently associated with significantly greater morbidity. For example, compared to those with “normal” hearing, those with untreated hearing loss had 3.2 times more dementia diagnoses, 3.6 x more falls and 6.9 x more depression diagnoses per 100 people over 10 a year period.

Take care of yourself

Daily, I observe that people are transformed by the simple application of a hearing aids, that are barely visible. When we have to work hard to decipher what someone is saying it puts a strain on the brain. It’s stressful and tiring. In addition, the more unclear words are, and the more listening effort is required to hear them, the less likely those words are going to be remembered.

Lipreading too requires a complex interaction between vision, hearing and short and long-term memory. It can be exhausting and taxing on our cognitive resources, and, as we well know, untreated hearing loss over the long-term is a contributing factor to heightened dementia risk and memory impairment.

Researchers at the London School of Economics, published in the International Journal of Audiology, estimated conservatively that the total global economic cost of untreated hearing loss is over $981 billion. A reduced quality of life contributed to 47 percent of the costs and 32 percent related to poor health outcomes related to hearing loss. This is why I’m passionate about educating and helping people to restore function and enhance brain and physical health.