Wearing hearing aids could increase life span, a new study has found.
Research by the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California found that people who wear hearing aids regularly had a 24% lower risk of mortality.
The study, published in The Lancet Healthy Longevity earlier this month, evaluated the history of nearly 10,000 patients over the age of 20 who received hearing evaluations.
Researchers looked at data compiled by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between 1999 and 2012 and followed the mortality status of each adult over an average 10-year period.
Of the 1,863 adults who were identified to have hearing loss, 237 were regular hearing aid users and 1,483 were considered “never users.”
There was no difference in mortality risk for people who wore their hearing aids irregularly, according to the study. (iStock)
The near-quarter difference in mortality rate remained evident between the two groups, regardless of factors like hearing loss severity, age, gender, income and medical history.
People who reported wearing their hearing aids less frequently were considered “non-regular users” in the study.
Between non-regular and never users, there was no difference in mortality risk indicated, which revealed that wearing hearing aids only occasionally may not extend life span.
Janet Choi, M.D., a Keck Medicine otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat doctor) and lead researcher of the study, reacted to the findings in a statement sent to Fox News Digital.
As someone who uses a hearing aid herself, Choi said she found the significant difference in mortality risks “exciting.”
Health factors such as social isolation, loneliness, depression, anxiety, decreased physical activity and dementia could occur due to hearing loss, the study author said. (iStock)
“It suggests that there may be a potential protective role of hearing aid use against mortality among those who could benefit from hearing aids,” she said.
Next, Choi and her research team plan to investigate the “cause-and-effect relationship between hearing aid use and mortality, as well as other health outcomes and the underlying mechanisms.”
“I encourage anyone experiencing hearing difficulties to get their hearing tested and determine the type and severity of their hearing loss,” she said.
“You might be surprised at the variety of hearing device options available to assist with hearing loss that can enhance daily communication and quality of life.”
“You might be surprised at the variety of hearing device options available to assist with hearing loss that can enhance daily communication and quality of life,” the researcher said. (iStock)
The researcher noted that it may take time to find the right hearing aids and get used to them.
“Once you do, you’ll be amazed to hear the sounds that you have been missing,” she said.
While the study did not pinpoint the reason that life span could improve with hearing aid use, Choi suggested there are “several possible mechanisms” that could contribute.
“One hypothesis is that the use of hearing aids modifies the effect of hearing loss on various health outcomes that contribute to mortality, including social isolation, loneliness, depression, anxiety, decreased physical activity and dementia,” she said.
“Another potential mechanism is the restoration of auditory input itself, which may impact brain structures.”
Hearing aids could “improve communication and adherence in medical settings,” the researcher said. (iStock)
Hearing aids may also “improve communication and adherence in medical settings,” Choi added.
People who use hearing aids regularly are also likely to be more health conscious and have a “higher level of access to health care,” according to the doctor.
Kamal Wagle, M.D., a geriatrician at Hackensack University Medical Group in New Jersey, who was not involved in the study, reiterated the importance of the findings in an interview with Fox News Digital.
The research highlighted how hearing loss is associated with other aging-related health issues, the doctor said, like social isolation, depression, dementia, falls and overall frailty.
“This is really good to know,” he said. “For me, as a clinician, it has a lot of implications – and I can bring it up with patients, so we can engage them in correcting hearing aids, so we can improve their quality of life.”
Hearing aid use could improve social interactions, a geriatrician told Fox News Digital. (iStock)
This study could help encourage more widespread hearing aid use, he noted, which could lead to improved social interactions, mood and “overall quality of life.”
This increase in social and physical engagement could then be a factor in living longer, Wagle suggested.
The doctor also noted that a “good number” of his aging patients are “not really engaged” in correcting their hearing, especially since the cost of hearing aids can be a deterrent.
“I think a study like this will probably also help move the momentum of insurance coverage for hearing aids,” Wagle added.
Angelica Stabile is a lifestyle writer for Fox News Digital.