Costs to Society

Across the EU, the cost of unemployment, reduced productivity, and early retirement due to untreated hearing loss is €185 billion per year (Shield, 2019). This is €17 billion more than the EU budget in 2020. 

When non-medical expenses or medical costs for other comorbidities are included, the true cost of hearing loss is estimated to be €213 billion.

Cost of untreated hearing loss

In Western Europe, the primary cause of years lost to disability is untreated hearing loss (Davis, 2016). Besides increased costs in specialist educational costs, reduced earning potential, and double unemployment rate, hearing loss is associated with increased use of hospital, assisted living, and social care services, as well as:

The index of disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) has identified that adult hearing loss will rise to 2.9%. The cost of this reduced quality of life for 196 million Europeans living with hearing loss stands at €67 billion.

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Cost Effective Hearing Care in Europe: Spend to Save

Effective treatment for hearing loss with a person-centred approach to ear and hearing care can reduce or nullify the associated health effects. Cost effective hearing care can also reduce the burden for citizens as well as Europe's health and social care systems. The WHO shows us that countries can deliver positive health benefits and see returns on investment by up to $16 for every $1.40 invested in hearing care.

Return on investment for hearing care

Savings can begin in childhood. As many children living with cochlear implants develop the listening, speech and language skills needed to attend a mainstream school, the cost saving are clear:

Impact of cochlear implantation on the cost of education for children

Read more about hearing loss in children

Research shows us the positive economic impact of treating progressive hearing loss in adults. A study of nearly 100 cochlear implant wearers showed that after 6 years their employment rates increased by 10% and 31% increased their income enough to change income brackets (Clinkard, 2015). 

In the UK, the National Hearing Screening Programme for citizens aged 65+ could save €2.34 billion over the next 10 years (Lamb et al, 2016).

Read more about hearing loss in adults

How can Policy Makers help?

  • Raise awareness of the importance of hearing health, the impact of hearing loss and the benefits of hearing loss treatment among the public and healthcare professionals.
  • Promote the need for robust national hearing health strategies including diagnosis, rehabilitation, service and maintenance.
  • Acknowledge access to professional hearing care as a right.
  • Promote access to effective treatments including hearing aids, bone conduction devices, and cochlear implants.
  • Explore and invest in effective methods of prevention and rehabilitation for hearing loss.
  • Share best practices among EU Member States.

Hearing Loss in Children

The World Health Organization estimates that 0.5 - 5 in every 1,000 children are born with sensorineural deafness or will develop hearing loss in childhood. This amounts to 32 million children worldwide.

A Child's Development and Hearing Loss

A child's development is hindered if they are denied access to hearing. Children with untreated severe-to-profound hearing loss can experience:

  • Reduced speech and language development
  • Diminished environmental awareness
  • Lower educational attainment, and
  • Career opportunities and income potential that falls behind their normal hearing peers or those using hearing aids or implants.

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Across EU Member States, access to paediatric hearing care and reimbursement differs. European citizens can experience variations in care including access to Newborn Hearing Screening, treatments such as cochlear implants or bone conduction devices, as well as rehabilitation services. This has created health inequality.

WHO recognizes the burden of hearing loss as a disability and the need for action to address this. Their World Report on Hearing provides clear guidance for hearing and ear care from birth through to old age.

Effective hearing screening from birth to old age

The Benefits of Hearing Loss Treatment for Children

Many children who use cochlear implant technology for sensorineural hearing loss attend mainstream schools. In fact, a number of studies have shown that children with access to treatment go on to have normal language development and improved understanding of speech. These benefits are enhanced if treatment is given at a young age and the latest technology is provided.

Infographic showing the benefits of hearing loss care

The cost of specialist education support for children with untreated hearing loss is a key consideration for Governments. For a child with additional needs the kindergarten support is ~€7,500 per year; this is 10 times greater than the cost of mainstream school (Baumgartner, 2011).

Read more about the economic impact of hearing loss

How can Policy Makers help?

  • Raise awareness of the importance of hearing health, the impact of hearing loss and the benefits of hearing loss treatment among the public and healthcare professionals.
  • Promote the need for robust national hearing health strategies including diagnosis, rehabilitation, service and maintenance.
  • Introduce a national Newborn Hearing Screening Programme.
  • Acknowledge access to professional hearing care as a right.
  • Promote access to effective treatments including hearing aids, bone conduction devices, and cochlear implants.
  • Explore and invest in effective methods of prevention and rehabilitation for hearing loss.
  • Share best practices among EU Member States.

Europe’s Ageing Society

Hearing Loss in Adults

Europe's population is one of the oldest in the world, which makes age-related hearing loss a concern for healthcare systems.
By 2050 the number of people with hearing loss could rise to 2,5 billion worldwide

By 2050 the number of people living with disabling hearing loss will increase to 2.5 billion. This will have a significant impact on quality of life (QoL) and overall health of adults across Europe. We know that adults with hearing loss (HL) report reduced participation in society due to fragmented communication. This includes difficulty following and taking part in conversations or meetings, which can lead to a diminished circle of friends, social isolation and withdrawal.

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Effective hearing screening for age-related hearing loss (ARHL) or noise-induced hearing loss is the first step to addressing this. When Governments provide person-centered care that includes speech & language therapy and access to hearing technology such as hearing aids or cochlear implants, the impact is significant. With hearing loss treatment, adults can increase their ability to communicate with others, which positively increases social activity, volunteer engagement, and paid employment.

Six hearing care interventions can support people with hearing loss

Adult Hearing Loss and Barrier to Active Ageing

Untreated hearing loss in adults is linked to a number of comorbidities that affects quality of life and adds significant financial costs to Europe’s healthcare systems.

When hearing loss deprives the brain of stimulation from communication or music, it can speed up cognitive decline and increase the risk of dementia by as much as 8.2%. This makes hearing loss the number one modifiable risk factor contributing to the condition (Livingston, 2020).

Read More about Cognition and Hearing Loss

Adults with untreated hearing loss are also:

  • At higher risk of suffering from dementia
  • 33% more likely to rely on others leading to reduced independence and autonomy
  • Twice as likely to experience mental health conditions such as depression
  • Have an increased risk of type 2 diabetes
  • Experience more frequent falls
  • More likely to have increased hospitalization rates, entry to assisted living housing, or need social care services.

All these factors increase the pressure on public spending related to ageing, which already accounts for 50% of general government expenditure across Europe.

Read more about the economic impact of hearing loss in adults

How can Policy Makers help?

  • Raise awareness of the importance of hearing health, the impact of hearing loss and the benefits of hearing loss treatment among the public and healthcare professionals.
  • Promote the need for robust national hearing health strategies including diagnosis, rehabilitation, service and maintenance.
  • Launch a national over-55 Hearing Screening Programme.
  • Acknowledge access to professional hearing care as a right.
  • Promote access to effective treatments including hearing aids, bone conduction devices, and cochlear implants.
  • Explore and invest in effective methods of prevention and rehabilitation for hearing loss.
  • Share best practices among EU Member State.

Gallery

References
  • Hearing Loss and Adverse Health Effects

    1 Aging and Hearing Health: The Life-course Approach. Davis A et al. Gerontologist. 2016 Apr; 56(Suppl 2): S256–S267 | 2 Association of Age-Related Hearing Loss With Cognitive Function, Cognitive Impairment, and Dementia: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis, Loughrey DG et al. JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2018 Feb 1;144(2):115-126 | 3 Diabetes-related changes in hearing. Austin DF et al. Laryngoscope. 2009 Sep;119(9):1788-96 | 4,5 Association of Hearing Impairment and Mortality in Older Adults, Genther DJ et al. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2015 January;70(1):85–90 | 6 Prevalence and patterns of hearing loss among chronic kidney disease patients undergoing haemodialysis, Jishana Jamaldeen, Australas Med J. 2015; 8(2): 41–46 | 7 Association of Hearing Impairment With Incident Frailty and Falls in Older Adults, Kamil RJ et al. J Aging Health. 2016 Jun; 28(4): 644–660 | 8 Death, Depression, Disability and Dementia Associated With Self-reported Hearing Problems: A 25-Year Study. Amieva H et al. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2018 Sep 11;73(10):1383-1389 | 9 Associations between cardiovascular disease and its risk factors with hearing loss-A cross-sectional analysis. Tan HE et al. Clin Otolaryngol. 2018 Feb;43(1):172-181

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