4 Surprising Costs of Hearing Loss

An elderly woman on a smartphone turned on an audio tale for a little girl in headphones.

Over 48 million Americans struggle with hearing loss. Research shows that nearly 14% of people ages 45 to 64, and 33% of adults over age 65, have problems hearing. Hearing loss can impact people’s lives in many ways. Review four surprising costs of hearing loss.

  1. Mental

    Hearing loss can cause people to feel depressed and anxious. They are uncomfortable in new situations because they worry about correctly hearing sounds and conversations.

    People with hearing loss may find themselves struggling with the condition, especially if they once had normal hearing. They can feel like relationships with friends and co-workers have changed due to their hearing impairment.

    Many people with hearing problems avoid attending events in loud environments, such as a movie theatre or restaurant. In group discussions, they may nod their head as though they understand what others are saying.

  1. Physical

    People with hearing loss may have more stress and anxiety, which can lead to health problems. They may experience vertigo, feel tense and tired, or have difficulty sleeping. Researchers believe hearing loss also can cause reduced cognitive abilities, such as dementia, memory loss and trouble solving problems.

  1. Employment

    Sometimes individuals with hearing loss struggle to find and keep jobs. Team meetings can be frightening, especially for those who depend on lip-reading. Large group discussions can be unsettling when the noise level is high and people talk over each other. In this environment, conversations can sound garbled.

    Employees with hearing loss may avoid group meetings, preferring to read meeting notes. Or they may ask another team member to fill in. If there are random noises in the background, it’s often difficult for them to concentrate. Significant changes at work may seem overwhelming.

    But it does not have to be this way. Employers can help employees with hearing loss succeed at work by doing three things:

    • Provide a workspace with minimal background noise so employees with hearing loss can communicate effectively with others in the office.
    • Install special equipment to amplify sounds and modify lighting to enhance facial and verbal communication.
    • When scheduling online meetings, set communication protocols to encourage team members to speak clearly and limit interruptions. Record important conversations. Some online meeting platforms, such as WebEx, also provide a written transcript of the audio discussion.
  1. Health costs

    Untreated hearing loss can result in higher medical bills, research shows. One study found that over 18 months, people diagnosed with hearing loss had 33% higher medical costs spending over $14,000 on health care. In comparison, individuals with normal hearing spent about $10,000 over the same period.

    Health experts believe that people with hearing loss may not go to the doctor because they are concerned about communicating effectively. They also may be too shy to ask for help. This is when a close family member or friend can volunteer to go to the doctor with them.

Symptoms and treatment

Many Americans struggle to admit they have a hearing problem. They blame their hearing issues on a variety of other circumstances. Consider six examples of hearing loss:

  1. Does not laugh at jokes, misses some of the details
  2. Hears only parts of conversations
  3. Asks others to repeat what is said in a meeting or group conversation
  4. Plays music or the TV too loud
  5. Fails to hear the doorbell or phone ringing
  6. Complains of people mumbling and asks them to repeat what they said

Adults and children with three or more of these hearing loss behaviors should contact their doctor for a routine hearing evaluation. If an issue is detected, a hearing specialist, such as an audiologist or ENT (ear, nose and throat) doctor, can conduct a professional hearing exam to verify the problem.

Hearing loss often is considered a normal side effect of aging. But it also can occur from long-term use of opioids, some prescription medications or over-the-counter drugs. Noise-induced hearing loss is also on the rise. For example, listening to loud music with earbuds or being around loud machinery without ear protection can damage hearing.

Better Hearing Institute
Hearing Health Care
Johns Hopkins Medicine
Mayo Clinic