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New policies and technologies are currently focused on improving access to hearing loss treatments and services — which are underused by many older adults with hearing loss.

Against this backdrop, researchers from AARP/AARP Services, Inc., Johns Hopkins University, OptumLabs, and the University of California, San Francisco combined their expertise to learn more about the cost of untreated hearing loss, using OptumLabs data. 

The research team produced two papers — published in JAMA Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery — that analyzed adults age 50+ who had commercial or Medicare Advantage insurance from 2000 to 2016. 

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Incident hearing loss and comorbidity

Untreated hearing loss was associated with significantly higher risks of certain health conditions, which increased over time: An increased 10-year attributable risk of dementia (3.2 per 100 persons), depression (6.9 per 100 persons) and falls (3.6 per 100 persons). 

This paper reinforces existing evidence about the association of untreated hearing loss with these health conditions using real-world data.1

Health care costs and utilization

Total health care costs for those with untreated hearing loss were 46% higher ($22,434) over a 10-year period compared to those without hearing loss.

In the same period, those with untreated hearing loss experienced almost 50% more hospital stays and had a 44% higher risk for being readmitted to the hospital within 30 days compared to those without hearing loss. 

This is the first 10-year analysis of the association of untreated hearing loss with health care cost and utilization using real-world claims data.2

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The team of partner researchers not only tackled challenges together in their analyses, but also collaborated in the translation of their findings.

Partners amplified the study through a press release, blogs, podcasts and social media. The story was also featured in the New York Times Personal Health column. 

The research continues to be presented at conferences, and has made its way into patient-facing newsletters across the nation. 

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  1. Deal JA, Reed NS, Kravetz AD, et al. Incident hearing loss and comorbidity: A longitudinal administrative claims study. JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2018. Nov. [Epub ahead of print].
  2. Reed NS, Altan A, Deal JA, et al. Trends in health care costs and utilization associated with untreated hearing loss. JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2018 Nov 2. [Epub ahead of print].