Adults with hearing loss who regularly use their hearing aids may experience a remarkable 24% lower risk of mortality compared to non-users.
A new study published in the January 3, 2024 edition of The Lancet Healthy Longevity suggests adults with hearing loss who regularly use their hearing aids may experience a remarkable 24% lower risk of mortality compared to non-users.
Numerous studies have underscored the negative effects of untreated hearing loss, including a compromised lifespan, increased social isolation, depression, and dementia. However, until now, researchers have not shown that using hearing aids might reverse the life-shortening effects of hearing loss.
The new study led by Keck Medicine of USC otolaryngologist Janet Choi, MD, MPH, represents a comprehensive exploration into the intricate relationship between hearing loss, hearing aid usage, and mortality. Drawing on data from the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) spanning from 1999 to 2012, the research team identified nearly 10,000 adults aged 20 and older who underwent audiometry evaluations and disclosed information about their hearing aid habits. Over a decade-long follow-up period, the team tracked the mortality status of these individuals.
Among the 1,863 adults with hearing loss, 237 were regular hearing aid users— defined as wearing aids at least once a week for 5 hours or half the time— while 1,483 had never embraced them. Participants who reported wearing the devices less than once a month or less frequently were categorized as non-regular users.
The researchers found an almost 25% difference in mortality risk between regular users and never-users. This distinction persisted across various factors, including the degree of hearing loss (mild to severe), age, ethnicity, income, education, and medical history. Conversely, no noteworthy difference in mortality risk emerged between non-regular users and never-users, hinting that sporadic use may not offer life-extending benefits.
While the study refrained from delving into the intricacies of why hearing aids might contribute to a longer life, recent research pointing to increased social engagement and reduced levels of depression and dementia among hearing aid users provides tantalizing insights. The potential link between improved mental health, enhanced cognition through better hearing, and overall health improvement suggests a pathway to an extended lifespan.
Dr. Choi, with her personal experience battling hearing loss, empathizes with the challenges hindering hearing aid use, including cost, societal stigma, and the
difficulty of finding suitable devices. She is at the forefront of developing an AI-driven database that not only categorizes hearing aid options, but tailors them to individual patient needs. She advocates for larger studies to unravel the nuanced connection between regular hearing aid use and diminished mortality risk, aspiring to foster better hearing care practices in the broader population.
Along with Dr. Choi, study authors included Dr. Frank Lin of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Dr. Meredith Adams of the University of Minnesota, and Dr. Eileen Crimmins and Dr. Jennifer Ailshire of the University of Southern California.
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