Association of self-reported hearing loss severity and healthcare utilization outcomes among Medicare beneficiaries

Anthony Thai, Uchechukwu C. Megwalu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Purpose: Understanding health utilization trends in the elderly population is pivotal for Medicare and policymakers. This study evaluates the association between hearing status and health utilization outcomes in a representative sample of elderly Medicare beneficiaries. Materials and methods: We employed the 2017 Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey (MCBS), which includes self-reported hearing loss data and weighted health utilization information. Analyses were limited to Medicare beneficiaries aged 65 and older without hearing aids. Multivariable logistic regression was performed to assess association between self-reported hearing loss and health utilization outcomes. Results: Of 7160 respondents, 55.1%, 39.9% and 4.9% reported no trouble hearing, little trouble hearing, and a lot of trouble hearing, respectively. On multivariable logistic regression, both a little and a lot of trouble hearing were associated with trouble accessing care (little trouble hearing: odds ratio [OR] = 1.79, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.33–2.40, p < 0.001; lot of trouble hearing: OR = 2.89, 95% CI: 1.81–4.60, p < 0.001) and emergency room (ER) visits (little trouble hearing: OR = 1.24, 95% CI: 1.08–1.42, p = 0.002; lot of trouble hearing: OR = 1.44, 95% CI: 1.10–1.89, p = 0.01). A lot of trouble hearing was associated with avoiding doctor visits (OR = 1.63 95% CI: 1.21–2.21, p = 0.002). Self-reported hearing status was not associated with inpatient or skilled nursing facility (SNF) admission on adjusted analyses. Conclusions: Increasing reported hearing loss severity is associated with decreased access to and avoidance of routine medical visits, and increased utilization of ER visits. These findings have important implications for Medicare, clinicians and policymakers. Further studies should evaluate if hearing aids can mitigate these outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102943
JournalAmerican Journal of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Medicine and Surgery
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Access to care
  • Avoiding doctor visits
  • Emergency room
  • Health utilization
  • Hearing loss
  • Hospitalization
  • Medicare
  • Skilled nursing facility


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