The study shows that the devices reduce the risk of death by almost 25 percent. Previous research has shown that hearing loss affects tens of millions of people around the world, but only one in 10 who need hearing aids use them.
Now American scientists who conducted the new study, published in The Lancet Healthy Longevity journal, say those who don’t use hearing aids but should may want to make wearing them one of their New Year’s resolutions.
“We found that adults with hearing loss who regularly used hearing aids had a 24 percent lower risk of mortality than those who never wore them. These results are exciting because they suggest that hearing aids may play a protective role in people’s health and prevent early death,” said Lead research Dr. Janet Choi.
She said previous research has shown that untreated hearing loss can result in a reduced life span – as well as social isolation, depression and dementia. However, until now, there has been little research examining if the use of hearing aids can reduce the risk of death. Dr. Choi says the new study represents the most comprehensive analysis to date on the relationship between hearing loss, hearing aid use and mortality.
She and her colleagues at The Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California (USC) identified almost 10,000 adults 20 years and older who had completed audiometry evaluations, a test used to measure hearing ability, and who filled out questionnaires about their hearing aid use. The research team followed their mortality status over an average follow-up period of 10 years after their evaluations.
A total of 1,863 adults were identified as having hearing loss. Of those, 237 were regular hearing aid users, defined as those who reported wearing the aids at least once a week, five hours a week or half the time. Another 1,483 were identified as never-users of the devices. Participants who reported wearing the devices less than once a month or less frequently were categorized as non-regular users.
The research team found that the almost 25 percent difference in mortality risk between regular hearing aid users and never-users remained steady, regardless of variables such as the degree of hearing loss, age, ethnicity, income, education and medical history.
“There was no difference in mortality risk between non-regular users and never users, indicating that occasional hearing aid use may not provide any life-extending benefit,” said Dr. Choi.
While the study didn’t examine why hearing aids may help those who need them live longer, Dr. Choi pointed to recent research linking hearing aid use with lowered levels of depression and dementia. She believes that the improvements in mental health and cognition that come with improved hearing can promote better overall health, which may extend longevity.
Dr. Choi, who was born with hearing loss in her left ear but did not wear a hearing device until her 30s, hopes the study will encourage more people to wear hearing aids, even though she acknowledges that factors, including cost, stigma and difficulty finding devices that fit and function well, are barriers to use. She is currently working on an AI-driven database that categorizes hearing aid choices and tailors them to individual patient needs.
Produced in association with SWNS Talker
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