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Invited Commentary
January 2019

The Invisible Costs of Hearing Loss

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Family Medicine, University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor
JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2019;145(1):35. doi:10.1001/jamaoto.2018.3100

In this issue of JAMA Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery, data from the administrative claims supplied by the OptumLabs database and analyzed by Reed et al1 indicate significantly longer inpatient stays, higher 30-day hospital readmission rates, and increased overall health care costs among persons with untreated hearing loss. The authors used data from this large, diverse medical claims database representing over 125 million individuals in the United States and found evidence that untreated hearing loss may be influencing health care in more ways than we previously imagined. The prevalence of hearing loss, which is strongly associated with age, is increasing as our population ages, with most US adults 75 years and older experiencing hearing loss. Coupled with the fact that hearing loss is not only common, but also connected with social isolation, reduced cognitive function,2 poorer physical and psychological health,3 increased risk of falls and hospitalization,4 and worse patient-clinician communication,5 the health care system should do more to improve screening and treatment of individuals with hearing loss.