A common form of treatment for hearing loss is the use of hearing aids. Unfortunately, many who need them don’t get them due to cost and insurance complications. This, unfortunately, can pose a large risk to a person’s health and life.
But if people who lived with hearing loss were able to easily obtain hearing aids, it could reduce a large strain on the health system. This is because researchers have found that people who use hearing aids are less likely to visit hospitals and ERs.
The researchers of the study looked at 1,336 adults over the age of 65 who had reported severe hearing loss. Of the group, only 45 percent used hearing aids. They found that those who didn’t use hearing aids to correct their hearing loss were more likely to visit the hospital or ER in the past year.
Among those who used hearing aids and visited a hospital, their average stay was shorter than those who did not use hearing aids.
On the other hand, those with hearing hands were more likely to visit their family doctor. Office-based visits to a doctor are far less costly than hospital visits.
Lead author of the study Elham Mahmoudi explained, “Traditional Medicare doesn’t cover hearing aids at all. Medicare Advantage plans may cover them but often ask members to share the cost at a high level, and only about half of states offer some Medicaid coverage for the lowest-income patients. As the debate over expanding coverage continues, we hope this research and our future work will help inform the discussion.”
Mahmoudi and her team are now studying five years’ worth of private insurance data to provide more evidence that covering hearing aids is a wise choice for insurance companies, as they can cut costs elsewhere.
Mahoudi concluded, “This is the first study to show an association between hearing aid use and how older people use the health care system. If we look over a longer period, it may be that the cost of the hearing aid may be covered by the difference in use of health care. That remains to be seen. But hearing loss is something that a lot of people experience, and it can be overcome in most cases. So cost-effectiveness may be only one way to measure whether insurance coverage for hearing aids is the right thing to do.”
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