According to statistics, nearly 40 million American adults suffer from hearing loss, yet only one in ten people who need hearing aids use them. According to a new study published today in The Lancet Healthy Longevity by Keck Medicine of USC, people who don’t use hearing aids should make it one of their New Year’s resolutions.
The researchers found that the difference in mortality risk between regular hearing aid users and never users remained constant, regardless of the degree of hearing loss (mild to severe), age, ethnicity, income, education and other variables. Demographics and medical history.
There was no difference in mortality risk between non-regular users and non-users, indicating that occasional hearing aid use may not confer any life-extending benefits. “We found that adults with hearing loss who regularly used hearing aids had a 24 percent lower risk of death,” said Janet Choi, MD, MPH, an otolaryngologist at Keck Medicine and the study’s lead researcher.
“These findings are exciting because they suggest that hearing aids may play a protective role in human health and prevent early death.” Previous studies have shown that untreated hearing loss can lead to reduced life expectancy (as well as other poor outcomes such as social isolation, depression and dementia).
However, to date, there have been few studies examining whether hearing aid use can reduce the risk of death. According to Choi, the study represents the most comprehensive analysis to date on the relationship between hearing loss, hearing aid use and mortality in the United States.
Choi and her fellow researchers used data compiled by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between 1999-2012 to identify nearly 10,000 adults age 20 and older who completed an audiometry assessment, a test used to measure hearing ability, and who filled out questionnaires about them. Hearing aid use.
The researchers followed their mortality for an average follow-up period of 10 years after their assessment.
A total of 1,863 adults were identified as having hearing loss. Of these, 237 were regular hearing aid users, who reported wearing the aids at least once a week, five hours a week, or half the time, and 1,483 were identified as never using the devices.
Subjects who reported wearing the devices less than once a month or less frequently were classified as non-regular users.
While the study didn’t examine why hearing aids might help those who need them live longer, Choi points to recent research that links hearing aid use to lower rates of depression and dementia. He hypothesizes that the improvements in mental health and cognition that come with improved hearing can promote better overall health, which in turn can improve lifespan.
Choi hopes the research will encourage more people to wear hearing aids, though he acknowledges that factors including cost, stigma and difficulty finding devices that fit and work well are barriers to use.
Choi can personally relate to these challenges. He was born with hearing loss in his left ear but didn’t wear a hearing aid until he was 30. Then it took him several years to find one that worked effectively for him.