The number of U.S. adults who have some form of hearing loss is projected to nearly double in the coming decades, according to a research letter published Thursday in JAMA Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery, Steven Ross Johnson reports for Modern Healthcare.
Currently, about two-thirds of U.S. residents over age 69 experience hearing loss, and, Johnson writes, most health care services related to hearing loss detection and treatment are not covered by health insurance. But as the baby boomer generation continues to age the need for services and treatments for hearing loss will rise.
For the study, researchers from Johns Hopkins University examined data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Based on the data and 10-year population growth estimates and changes in the average American's age over time, the researchers forecasted the number of people expected to experience hearing loss by 2060.
The researchers projected that the share of the U.S. population ages 20 and older who experience some form of hearing loss will increase from 15 percent, or 44.1 million people, in 2020 to 22 percent, or 73.5 million people, in 2060. According to the researchers, 67 percent of adults with hearing loss by 2060 will be age 70 or older, up from 55.4 percent in 2020.
Adele Goman, the study's lead author and a research fellow at Johns Hopkins University's Center on Aging and Health, called hearing loss "a major public health issue." The researchers wrote that their projections could help to "inform policymakers and public health researchers in planning appropriately for the future audiological hearing health care needs of society."
Hearing loss services typically not covered by insurance
According to Johnson, most health care services related to hearing loss detection and treatment are not covered by health insurance. Further, although the Affordable Care Act requires insurers to cover hearing exams, Medicare and many private payers do not cover hearing devices, and Medicaid coverage of the devices varies by state. According to Johnson, 20 states require insurers to cover hearing aid costs for individuals under age 18, but only Arkansas, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island require insurers to cover hearings aids for adults.
According to AARP, hearing aids can cost between $1,200 to $2,500. A health plan that covers hearing aids generally pays between $500 to $1,000 for such a device every three to five years (Ross Johnson, Modern Healthcare, 3/2; Gorman et al., JAMA Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery, 3/2).
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