Current State of Benefit-Cost Analysis on Traditional Hearing Aids

In brief, the current state of benefit-cost analysis on traditional hearing aids is modest but sufficient for the World Health Organization to conclude in 2017 that “Provision of hearing devices is a cost-effective strategy, especially when used regularly and supported with rehabilitation services.” The WHO report did recommend that additional data on the topic be developed: “Country-specific data on the cost of unaddressed hearing loss and cost–effectiveness of interventions should be gathered to strengthen available evidence.”

In addition to the WHO report and its underlying database, we highlight the more recent Brent (2019) study, “A Cost-Benefit Analysis of Hearing Aids, Including the Benefits of Reducing the Symptoms of Dementia,” which also agrees that the benefits of traditional hearing aids exceeds the cost. Of particular note, the study links use of hearing aids to reduced dementia in the hearing impaired. Specifically the study in Applied Economics concludes:

“We found that the total benefits [of hearing aids], mainly coming from the direct benefits, were extremely large relative to the costs, with benefit–cost ratios over 30.”

“Our results confirm the findings in the literature that HAs [hearing aids] reduce the symptoms of dementia. … The capacity for HAs to reduce the symptoms of dementia needs to be acknowledged and added to the list of interventions helping to mitigate the spread of this increasingly prevalent disease.”

We also note Willink, et al (2019) study, “Cost‐Benefit Analysis of Hearing Care Services: What Is It Worth to Medicare?” which concluded “Utilization of hearing care services among older adults with hearing aids is associated with reduced Medicare spending. Increasing access to hearing care services among Medicare beneficiaries with hearing aids may provide value to the healthcare system and net savings to the Medicare program.”

In summary, the state of benefit-cost analysis literature concludes that the provision and use of traditional hearing aids has a large net positive benefit and is linked to a reduction in dementia symptoms

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