A new study from Keck Medicine of USC suggests that wearing hearing aids can potentially extend the lives of individuals with hearing loss. The research, published in The Lancet Healthy Longevity, reveals that adults with hearing loss who regularly use hearing aids have a 24% lower risk of mortality compared to those who never wear them. These findings are significant as they indicate that hearing aids may play a protective role in individuals’ health and prevent premature death.
While previous studies have shown that untreated hearing loss can lead to a reduced lifespan and other negative outcomes such as social isolation, depression, and dementia, there has been limited research on whether hearing aids can mitigate the risk of mortality. This study, according to lead researcher Janet Choi, MD, MPH, is the most comprehensive analysis to date on the relationship between hearing loss, hearing aid use, and mortality in the United States.
To conduct the study, Choi and her team analyzed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey conducted between 1999 and 2012. They identified nearly 10,000 adults aged 20 years and older who had undergone audiometry evaluations to measure their hearing ability and completed questionnaires about their hearing aid usage. The participants’ mortality status was tracked over an average follow-up period of 10 years.
Among the 1,863 adults identified as having hearing loss, 237 were regular hearing aid users, which meant they wore the aids at least once a week for five hours or half the time. On the other hand, 1,483 individuals were categorized as never-users of hearing aids. The study found that the 24% difference in mortality risk between regular hearing aid users and never-users remained consistent, even when accounting for variables such as the degree of hearing loss, age, ethnicity, income, education, and medical history. However, no significant difference in mortality risk was observed between non-regular users and never-users, suggesting that occasional hearing aid use may not offer the same life-extending benefits.
The study did not investigate why hearing aids may contribute to longer lives, but Choi points to recent research that connects hearing aid use to lower levels of depression and dementia. She speculates that improved mental health and cognition resulting from enhanced hearing may lead to better overall health and, consequently, a longer life.
Choi hopes that this study will encourage more people to wear hearing aids, acknowledging that barriers such as cost, stigma, and the struggle to find properly fitting and functioning devices hinder their utilization. As someone with hearing loss in her left ear, Choi understands these challenges firsthand. She is currently developing an AI-driven database that categorizes hearing aid options and tailors them to individual patient needs. Additionally, she advocates for larger studies to further explore the link between regular hearing aid use and reduced mortality risk, and to promote better hearing care overall
1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
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