New Ear Foundation Report Looks at Cost of Untreated Hearing Loss Across Europe

By Amanda Farah Cox

The Ear Foundation has released its latest report, “Spend to Save: Investing in hearing technology improves lives and saves society money.” The report, written by Brian Lamb, Sue Archbold, and Ciaran O’Neill, looks at a Europe-wide strategy for promoting hearing technologies in order to reduce healthcare costs.

Previous Ear Foundation reports have looked at the cost of not treating hearing loss, focusing on what British social services spend to support people with hearing loss and revenue lost to years those people are unable to work because of their hearing loss.

“Spend to Save” continues in this line of research, but looks at figures from across Europe comparing the rate of hearing loss, hearing instrument up-take, and additional health care expenditures as a result of hearing loss going untreated. In the majority of countries, hearing loss is directly associated with additional healthcare costs. However, the report highlights that in Denmark, which has a high uptake of hearing aids as they are readily supplied by the national healthcare system (and where the Ida Institute is based), there is actually a negative cost to hearing care. This suggests that not only does treating hearing care reduce spending, but it could save spending across other areas of a healthcare system.

Despite evidence of the advantages of treating hearing loss, there is still low up-take of hearing aids and cochlear implants across Europe. Possible reasons suggested for the low-uptake of cochlear implants include limited or non-reimbursement for the procedure for adults and the restricted and dated criteria for implantation. The report recommends updating the criteria – which prevents people who would be candidates for implantation in some countries but disqualifies them in their own. The report also brings in a human aspect by recommending that implantation be available based on the needs of the individual, taking into consideration a person’s functional hearing needs (including work, family, and lifestyle) instead of simply looking at pure-tone audiometric guidelines.

You can download “Spend to Save” in full at the Ear Foundation website.