Regular Hearing Aid Use Linked to Longer Lifespan: Study Finds 24% Decreased Risk of Early Death

hearing aid use tied to longer lifespan
January 4, 2024

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA — A new study suggests that regularly wearing hearing aids may help reduce the risk of early death in people with hearing loss.

Researchers at the University of Southern California examined data from nearly 10,000 American adults who participated in a national health survey between 1999 and 2012. The study, published in The Lancet Healthy Longevity, found that adults with hearing loss who regularly used hearing aids had a 24% lower risk of dying during the study period compared to those who never used hearing aids.

“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 researcher Dr. Janet Choi, an otolaryngologist at Keck Medicine of USC.

Hearing Loss and Lifespan

Previous studies have shown that untreated hearing loss can lead to a shortened lifespan (as well as other poor outcomes including social isolation, depression and dementia). However, there has been little research on whether treating hearing loss with hearing aids can reduce mortality risk—until now.

“This study represents the most comprehensive analysis to date on the relationship between hearing loss, hearing aid use and mortality in the United States”

–Dr. Janet Choi

The researchers examined data on nearly 10,000 adults aged 20 and older who had audiometry testing and completed questionnaires about their hearing aid use as part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) from 1999 to 2012.

They identified 1,863 adults with hearing loss based on their audiometry results. Of these, 237 were categorized as regular hearing aid users, meaning they reported wearing hearing aids at least once a week or half the time. Another 1,483 adults were identified as never-users who reported never wearing hearing aids.

After following participants for an average of 10 years, regular hearing aid users had a 24% lower risk of death compared to never-users. This difference remained significant after accounting for degree of hearing loss, age, race, income, education, medical history, and other factors. There was no mortality risk difference between non-regular users and never-users.

Benefits of Regular Hearing Aid Use

While the study did not examine the reasons for the lower mortality risk, Dr. Choi suggested it could be related to improvements in mental health and cognition from improved hearing. Further research is still needed on the mechanisms involved.

“This indicates that occasional hearing aid use may not provide any life-extending benefit—regular, consistent use is key”

–Janet Choi, MD, MPH

Dr. Choi hopes the study will encourage more people to wear hearing aids regularly. But she acknowledges barriers like cost, stigma, and difficulty finding well-fitting devices can deter use.

As an ENT who was born with hearing loss herself, Dr. Choi understands these challenges firsthand. She is currently working to improve hearing aid accessibility and acceptance.

“I’m developing an AI-driven database to help match patients to hearing aids tailored for their needs. I’m also advocating for larger studies on hearing health to further explore this link between hearing aids and lower mortality,” Dr. Choi said.

For now, the study provides compelling evidence that treating hearing loss may not just improve quality of life, but help extend it too.




Source: USC, The Lancet

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