A recent study published in the journal JAMA Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery, suggests older adults who wear hearing aids may make fewer visits to the hospital.
Study Finds Hearing Aid Use Reduced Time Spent in Hospital
Researchers examined data from more than 1,300 adults aged 65 to 85 with severe hearing loss, and found that only 45 percent of them used a hearing aid. There were some interesting correlations between those who wore hearing aids and those who didn’t.
Hearing Aid Wearers Were Less Likely to Spend Time in the ER or Hospital
Those who did use a hearing aid were less likely to have gone to an emergency room or spent time in the hospital within the past year. The study found the difference was about 2 percentage points. While that's not a major difference, it's large enough to be significant, according to the University of Michigan researchers who conducted the study.
Those with Hearing Aids Had Shorter Hospital Visits
They also found that among seniors who had been hospitalized, those with hearing aids spent an average of half a day less in the hospital than those without hearing aids.
Hearing Aid Wearers Were More Likely to Have Seen a Doctor That Year
Another finding was that seniors in the study with hearing aids were more likely (by 4 percentage points) to have gone to a doctor's office in the past year than those without hearing aids. A doctor's office visit costs much less than an emergency room visit or hospitalization, the researchers noted.
Hearing loss is one of the most common health conditions among Americans over 65. The association between hearing aid use and lower risk of costly emergency room visits and hospitalization doesn't prove cause and effect, but the observation is worth noting.
Preventative Doctor Visits Are Less Costly Than ER Visits
Further analysis is needed, but with the rising cost of healthcare and an increasingly older population trend, this study points to the possibility that older adults who wear hearing aids could be more likely to take better care of themselves and their health, and seek out less costly health care by seeing their primary care providers, instead of waiting for a condition to worsen, requiring a hospital/ER visit.
Other Benefits for Hearing Aid Wearers
Tim Steele, Ph.D., President of Associated Audiologists and a board member of the Academy of Doctors of Audiology, notes that research continues to show benefits for adults who wear hearing aids including:
- Reduced risk for depression
- Improved cognitive function
- Lower risk of falls
- Slightly lower risk of ER visits and hospitalizations
Wearing Hearing Aids May Reduce Costs in the Long Run
“Science continues to show benefits for those who wear hearing aids, but cost can be a barrier for some,” Dr. Steele said. “There are so many options available for different budgets. Our hope is that consumers will come to recognize that it may be much more cost effective to pursue help with hearing aids, than to pay for emergency room visits, hospitalizations and in some cases, long-term care. Continued research is needed, but this is worth consideration, plus hearing aids help older adults live an improved quality of life.”