New Research Reveals That for People With Hearing Loss, Regular Use of Hearing Aids Could Reduce the Risk of Death by 24%.
As it turns out, regular use of hearing aids can help you hear better and live longer - assuming you need hearing aids in the first place. New research shows that U.S. adults with hearing loss who regularly wear hearing aids have a significantly lower risk of dying earlier than those who never wear them.
Hearing aids connection to a longer lifespan
How are hearing aids linked to increased longevity?
Dr. Janet Choi, an otolaryngologist at Keck Medicine of USC who uses a hearing aid, decided to examine whether a correlation exists between the regular usage of hearing aids and mortality rates.
Her new study, a cross-sectional, follow-up study recently published in The Lancet Healthy Longevity Journal, revealed that the regular use of hearing aids is associated with a 24% reduction in mortality among adults with hearing loss.
A Breakdown of the Study
Dr. Choi’s study: “Association between hearing aid use and mortality in adults with hearing loss in the USA: a mortality follow-up study of a cross-sectional cohort”, assessed nearly 10,000 people, with a mean age of 48.6 years.
Individuals had their hearing tested and completed hearing-aid use questionnaires between 1999 and 2012 as part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
This data was then linked to records from the National Death Index up to Dec. 31, 2019, to determine mortality risk.
The main measures included hearing loss and hearing aid use (never users, non-regular users, and regular users). People considered “regular” hearing aid users included those who wore their device for as little as five hours per week. The rate of regular hearing aid use among adults with hearing loss was 12.7%
Among individuals with hearing loss, the risk of mortality was lower among regular hearing aid users than never users in multivariable models accounting for levels of hearing loss, demographics, and medical history.
In conclusion, the study supports the continuous encouragement of regularly wearing hearing aids for hard of hearing populations.
Hearing Aids Impact On Well-being
Losing the ability to communicate and engage with the world the same as before the onset of hearing loss can lead to negative health outcomes, such as social isolation, depression, anxiety, and dementia, which are all factors tied to mortality.
For example, an older person experiencing the onset of hearing loss can experience frustration and isolation from not being able to contribute actively in conversations, which may lead to depression, impacting their mental well-being. This emotional struggle, if overlooked, can contribute to cognitive decline over time.
This might explain why those born deaf or with hearing loss or who lose hearing before learning a language don’t experience these effects.
Hearing loss is also associated with cognitive decline. The hearing loss strain to decode sounds increases the brain’s cognitive load and may debilitate cognitive functions. At the same time, our ears play an important role in our balance, which increases the risk of falls among older adults.
Most People With Hearing Loss Don’t Wear Hearing Aids
Despite the profound impact hearing loss can have on overall well-being, many adults grappling with hearing loss refrain from using hearing aids or seeking medical attention. This reluctance is frequently rooted in social stigma and concerns related to age and disability.
Dr. Choi’s groundbreaking study aims to hopefully encourage more people with hearing loss to embrace the use of hearing aids. Additionally, her compelling research may influence other factors contributing to the low rates of hearing aid use, such as cost, the complexity of the hearing healthcare system, lack of awareness about treatment options, and the potential consequences of prolonged hearing loss.
Furthermore, the recent introduction of OTC (over-the-counter) hearing aids holds promise in supporting users in overcoming barriers to access. By making hearing aids more readily available, these OTC solutions have the potential to encourage greater adoption among those in need.
Important caveats to consider
Although these findings may seem to reveal a generalized truth, it is essential to emphasize that the research study focuses on a population experiencing hearing loss, where hearing aids are considered a protective factor. It's crucial to recognize that hearing aids are not universally applicable; for instance, deaf individuals typically do not benefit from wearing them. It's equally important for those without hearing loss to refrain from seeking hearing aids unless they genuinely require assistance in hearing.
These points are informative and should not be construed as medical advice. Individual circumstances vary, and decisions regarding hearing aids should be made in consultation with healthcare professionals to ensure personalized and appropriate recommendations.
Dr. Choi's research emphasizes the vital link between hearing aid adoption and a longer, healthier life. Beyond statistics, the study highlights the broader impact of hearing loss on well-being and mortality, addressing crucial issues like social isolation, depression, and cognitive decline. The reluctance to adopt hearing aids stems from societal stigma and accessibility concerns, underscoring the importance of Dr. Choi's work in encouraging wider adoption and dismantling barriers.
At Nagish, we hope to continue to see more research focused on these important communities, reinforcing our commitment to address pressing societal challenges and creating a more inclusive environment.