Untreated hearing loss in the UK costs £25 billion each year

Around three million people in the United Kingdom are living with an untreated, disabling hearing loss, which costs the UK a shocking £25.5 billion each year, according to a new report.
This is a cost to society of £ 8,500 for every person with a disabling hearing loss each year. The costs are related to lower quality of life and higher unemployment among people with a disabling hearing loss.

The detailed findings and conclusions in a new report from hear-it AISBL – ‘Hearing Loss – Numbers and Costs’ – will be presented at a lunch debate at the European Parliament in Brussels on 6 March in connection with World Hearing Day on Sunday 3 March. Lower quality of life due to disabling hearing loss in the UK costs £16.5 billion each year. Lost productivity in the UK due to higher unemployment among people with a disabling hearing loss costs £9 billion each year. In total, this is £25.5 billion. The cost does not cover extra health care costs caused by hearing loss.

In the EU, untreated, disabling hearing loss costs 185 billion Euros each year. A disabling hearing loss is defined by the Global Burden of Disease research group (GBD) as a hearing loss greater than 35dB.

The report documents that the use of hearing aids and other hearing solutions improves health and increases quality of life. It also highlights that people with an untreated, disabling hearing loss are at greater risk of social isolation, depression, cognitive decline and dementia, while people who treat their hearing loss do not experience a higher risk than people without hearing loss.

There are 4.5 million people with a disabling hearing loss (>35 dB) in the UK. Around 3 million are not treated for their disabling hearing loss as only around one in three in Europe with a disabling hearing loss use hearing aids or other hearing solutions. With a steadily ageing population who live longer and longer and with an earlier onset of hearing loss due to increased noise exposure, this growth will increase even further in the years to come.

The report, “Hearing Loss – Numbers and Costs”, is a meta study which has analysed and compared hundreds of scientific studies and papers in the last two decades about the prevalence and consequences of hearing loss and the use and benefits of hearing aids.

BSHAA president Andrew Coulter said: “BSHAA welcomes this important report, which sets out clearly the dramatic economic and social impact of untreated hearing loss on our society – not to mention the impact of untreated hearing loss on individuals.

“Untreated hearing loss is a major public health issue and we have been campaigning for some time for a national public health campaign. The evidence for hearing’s vital role in the nation’s health and well-being continues to stack up, so we call on the government to recognise this and to take action.”

World Hearing Day is held by the World Health Organisation on 3 March each year to raise awareness of how to prevent deafness and hearing loss and promote hearing care across the world. The theme for World Hearing Day 2019 is “Check your hearing”. A planning toolkit is available for any hearing practices looking to stage events. 

The report, “Hearing Loss – Numbers and Costs”, has been produced for hear-it AISBL by Professor Emerita Bridget Shield, Brunel University in London with the assistance of Professor Mark Atherton, Brunel University, London.

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