Hearing aids may boost longevity, study finds. But only if used regularly

HEARD ON ALL THINGS CONSIDERED – Among the roughly 40 million adults in the U.S. who have hearing loss, most don’t use hearing aids. This means they may be missing out on more than just good hearing.

Research shows hearing loss, if left untreated, can increase the risk of frailty, falls, social isolation, depression and cognitive decline. One study from scientists at Johns Hopkins University found that even people with mild hearing loss doubled their risk of dementia.

Now a new study finds that restoring hearing loss with hearing aids may lengthen people’s lives.

Dr. Janet Choi, an otolaryngologist with Keck Medicine of USC, wanted to evaluate whether restoring hearing with hearing aids may increase the chances of living longer.

Using data from the the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a large, national study, Choi and her colleagues tracked the status of nearly 1,900 adults who had been shown to have hearing loss during screenings.

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The participants completed questionnaires about their use of hearing aids.

“The group of patients who were using hearing aids regularly had a 24% lower risk of mortality compared to the group who never use hearing aids,” Choi says. Meaning, the participants who were in the habit of wearing hearing aids were significantly less likely to die early.

The researchers had hypothesized this would be the case given all the studies pointing to the negative impacts of untreated hearing loss. But Choi says they did not expect such a big difference in mortality risk. “We were surprised,” she says.

Prior research has shown that age-related hearing loss – if untreated – can take its toll on physical and mental health. And a recent study found restoring hearing with hearing aids may slow cognitive decline among people at high risk …


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