Researchers at the University of Michigan in the US have found that hearing aids may have the potential to reduce the number of older adults who visit hospitals and A&E.
By analysing data from 1,336 adults aged 65 to 85 who had reported severe hearing loss, the researchers reported that adults who wore a hearing aid were less likely to have gone to hospital or require emergency medical attention in the last year.
The difference between hospital admission rates between those who did wear hearing aids and those who did not was only around 2%, which is not a major difference but still considered big enough to be significant.
In addition, patients who had been hospitalised and had a hearing aid were found to have shorter stays than those who did not have a hearing aid, averaging half a day less in the hospital.
It was also found that only 45% of those in the study actually used a hearing aid despite reportedly having serious difficulty hearing. The rate of those who were hearing aids in the US is reportedly lower still among those with low incomes or less education, those who are African American or Hispanic, and those who live in the southern states.
The study arrives at a time in the US when discussion about adding Medicare coverage for hearing aids is rising.
U-M Medical School health economist and lead author of the study Elham Mahmoudi, PhD, MBA, said: “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.”