A 2019 study undertaken by audiologists and hearing experts throughout the UK discovered that hearing loss not only costs the economy financially, but there are also unaccounted costs to an individual’s health and well-being. This research found that the socioeconomic costs of untreated hearing loss include “reduced quality of life, loss of productivity due to under- and unemployment and social care costs (Shield 2006)1.” as well as social isolation, loneliness and frustration at feeling excluded from conversations and activities.
Why don’t people act on hearing loss?
It can take between 7 to 15 years from an individual initially experiencing hearing loss to finding a hearing aid that rectifies the hearing loss. As the onset of hearing loss is gradual “Individuals may not be aware of their hearing difficulties because age-related hearing loss has a gradual onset (Rabinowitz 2000)4.” “Moreover, they may perceive hearing difficulties as resulting from external factors. For example, a person with hearing impairment may attribute difficulty understanding spoken conversation to “mumbling” by others (Action on Hearing Loss n.d.) 5.” Therefore, hearing loss sufferers are unaware that their hearing has deteriorated to the point of requiring amplification via hearing aids, until a loved one makes them aware of this.
There are also many other reasons why the uptake in hearing aids is low, but it is widely acknowledge with supporting research that “Older age may be independently associated with greater hearing aid use because of social or psychological factors (e.g., negative attitudes and perceptions of hearing aids being “for old people” may present a barrier to hearing aid use by younger people)2.” People are also unaware of where to turn to find out more information about whether they have hearing loss and what can be done to get them back on the road to better hearing. The key takeaway is that hearing loss can happen at any age, so acting on your hearing loss immediately would be a recommendation.
The financial cost of hearing loss
According to the World Health Organization the estimated cost to the economy for unaddressed hearing impairment is somewhere between “US$750 and US$790 billion per year.” (WHO 2017) 3. This is attributed to missed conversations in both social and workplace settings, lack of education opportunities for individuals at a young age which can impact on development in later-life and the cost of caring for those experience cognitive decline that could have benefited from a hearing aids had early intervention occurred.
What can we do?
“Healthcare professionals may need to identify hearing loss earlier through screening and work with patients to help them identify hearing difficulties attributable to a hearing impairment rather than external factors (Sawyer et al. 2019)2”. To do something about your hearing loss and help lessen the risk of dementia, consult with a hearing healthcare professional. Simply call 0800 042 0000 or click here and we can help schedule a consultation with a hearing healthcare provider near you.
Read the full report here.
1 Shield, B. (2006). Evaluation of the social and economic costs of hearing impairment. A report for hear-it. London South Bank University. Retrieved from https://www.hear-it.org/sites/default/files/multimedia/documents/Hear_It_Report_October_2006.pdf
2 Chelsea S. Sawyer, Christopher J. Armitage, Kevin J. Munro, Gurjit Singh, and Piers D. Dawes. (2019). Correlates of Hearing Aid Use in UK Adults: Self- Reported Hearing Difficulties, Social Participation, Living Situation, Health, and Demographics
3 World Health Organization. (2017). Global costs of unaddressed hearing loss and cost-effectiveness of interventions: a WHO report, 2017. World Health Organization. Retrieved from http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/254659/9789241512046-eng.pdf;jsessionid=921AEC431C2C60D961E50394DF5903A0?sequence=1
4 Rabinowitz, P. M. (2000). Noise-induced hearing loss. Am Fam Physician, 61, 2749–56, 2759.
5Action on Hearing Loss. (n.d.). Checking for hearing loss and next steps. Retrieved from https://www.actiononhearingloss.org.uk/-/media/ahl/how-we-help/health-care-professionals/a1422_info-sheet_checking-forhearing-loss-and-next-steps_v06.pdf.