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Hearing Aids May Extend Life Span
  • Posted January 4, 2024

Hearing Aids May Extend Life Span

A hearing aid's first purpose is fairly obvious, but a new study argues that the devices also provide an important second benefit -- a longer life.

“We found that adults with hearing loss who regularly used hearing aids had a 24% lower risk of mortality than those who never wore them,” said lead researcher Dr. Janet Choi, an otolaryngologist with the University of Southern California's Keck School of Medicine.

In the study, Choi and her colleagues tracked more than a decade's worth of federal health survey data on nearly 10,000 adults aged 20 and older, of whom more than 1,800 had suffered hearing loss.

Previous studies had linked untreated hearing loss to reduced life span, as well as other health problems like social isolation, depression and dementia.

But there's been little research regarding whether using a hearing aid can help ward off those health risks associated with hearing loss, the researchers noted.

In the new study, they found a nearly 25% lower risk of early death among the hard-of-hearing who regularly use a hearing aid versus those who never use them.

That difference remained steady even after taking into account other factors like age, ethnicity, income, education and medical history.

“These results are exciting because they suggest that hearing aids may play a protective role in people's health and prevent early death,” Choi said in a university news release.

Interestingly, there was no difference in death risk between people who never used a hearing aid and those who had one but only used it occasionally, researchers found.

Choi speculated that this lowered risk of death could be tied to the benefits that improved hearing brings to a person's mental health and brain function.

Other studies have found that using a hearing aid can ease a person's depression and dementia, Choi said. By treating those problems, the devices could be contributing to overall better health.

Hearing loss affects about 40 million U.S. adults, but only one in 10 who need a hearing aid actually uses one, the researchers noted.

Choi said she hopes the new study will encourage more people to wear hearing aids, even if they must overcome barriers like affordability, identifying and fitting the right device, or the perceived stigma that comes with donning the gizmo.

Choi personally relates to those challenges. Born with hearing loss in her left ear, Choi didn't wear a hearing aid until her 30s because it took her years to find ones that worked for her.

Larger studies are needed to further understand the link between regular hearing aid use and the risk of death, Choi said. She's also working on an AI-driven database that tailors hearing aid options to the needs of individual patients.

The new study was published Jan. 3 in the journal The Lancet Healthy Longevity.

More information

The National Council on Aging has more about shopping for hearing aids.

SOURCE: University of Southern California, news release, Jan. 3, 2023

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