Reduced work productivity expensive for society
Hearing loss costs society US$200,000 in reduced work productivity over the lifetime of a hearing impaired individual.
The costs to society may be reduced substantially if the hearing-impaired person receives earlier and better treatment with hearing aids and hearing screenings. Proper rehabilitation programmes to help people stay in the labour market are also essential. Compared to other impairments hearing loss is relatively inexpensive and easy to treat.
$300,000 over a lifetime
An American study "The societal costs of severe to profound hearing loss in the US", found in 2000 that the societal cost of hearing impairment totals an average of US$300,000 over the lifetime of a hearing-impaired person.
The researchers estimated that 67 per cent, or $200,000 per individual, of these costs are due to lost work productivity.
The Better Hearing Institute in the U.S. made a similar estimate of the societal costs. BHI estimated the annual cost of untreated hearing loss to be US$56 billion in the United States and 92 billion euro in the EU, mainly due to lost productivity. According to the study, the estimated societal costs of not treating hearing loss in Europe in the years 2001 to 2005 amounted to a staggering 400 billion euro.
Inexpensive to treat
In comparison, treatment with hearing aids is relative inexpensive, and hearing-impaired people using appropriate hearing aids can often have an active working life and lead a relatively normal life. One modern digital hearing aid costs on average 2,000 euro. Supplying all hearing impaired people in Europe with hearing aids would cost 150 billion euro.
According to the Maastricht Report, prepared by the SIHI study group, the cost per QALY (Quality Adjusted Life Year) for treating hearing loss in an individual aged between 65 and 69 years is 11,500 euro. The price per QALY for younger people would be lower. In comparison, one knee replacement costs 46,500 euro per QALY.
Early detection important
Early detection of hearing loss may help cut future societal expenditures. The price of screening an infant ranges from US$17 to $33. According to Lynn Spivark, PhD, quoted in the Hearing Journal, November 2000, the societal costs resulting from not screening infants are much higher than carrying out hearing screenings and implementing early intervention.
As well as performing hearing screenings and dispensing hearing aids, it is vital to provide special assistance and guidance on how to stay in the labour market. The Danish Information Centre for Companies Employing Deaf and Hearing-Impaired People (IDHA) found that with proper guidance and the right equipment many hearing-impaired people can retain their jobs.
Gerhard Larsson, quoted in the Swedish magazine for hearing-impaired people, Auris, stated that rehabilitation programmes aimed at helping people to remain in the labour market are good investments. He concludes that for every Swedish krone invested in rehabilitation nine kroner are saved elsewhere.