Can Regular Hearing Aid Use Reduce Risk of Death?

You know that hearing aids can help you hear better. But did you know a new study has found a lower risk of death in those with hearing loss who regularly wear their hearing aids? Read on to learn more about this new scientific study and the many benefits of hearing aids.

Research continues to point to the many benefits of wearing hearing aids. These benefits go beyond improved hearing and include reduced risks of depression, social isolation, cognitive decline, and falling, just to name a few.

Now, a new study published in The Lancet suggests that adults with hearing loss who regularly use their hearing aids may have a lower risk of death as compared to non-users.

This study aimed to examine the associations of hearing loss, hearing aid use, and mortality in the United States. To do so, the researchers assessed 9,885 adults, ages 20 years and older, who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between 1999 and 2012 and completed audiometry and hearing aid use questionnaires (1,863 adults with hearing loss). The main measures included hearing loss (speech-frequency Pure tone average) and hearing aid use (never users, non-regular users, and regular users).

Mortality status, or death, of the group was linked to the National Death Index up to Dec 31, 2019. Scientific models were used to examine the association between hearing loss, hearing aid use, and death while adjusting for demographics and medical history.

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 worn them on a regular basis. Participants who reported wearing hearing aids less than once a month or less frequently were categorized as non-regular users.

The researchers found an almost 25% difference in the risk of death between regular users and those who did not wear hearing aids. This distinction persisted across various factors, including the degree of hearing loss (mild to severe), age, ethnicity, income, education, and medical history. There was no noteworthy difference in mortality risk that emerged between non-regular users and never-users, hinting that using hearing aids infrequently may not offer life-extending benefits.

The study didn’t go into why hearing aids might help regular users live longer. Future research is needed to investigate the potential protective role hearing aid use may have in reducing the risk for death for adults with hearing loss.

In the meantime, it’s important to note that research continues to add up, finding that if you have hearing loss, it’s important to wear hearing aids, and not just wear them occasionally, but to wear them regularly, as prescribed.

Check Your Hearing

It’s also important to have your hearing checked to see how well you’re hearing, and if you need hearing aids.

Probably the best professional to evaluate your hearing is a doctoral-level audiologist. An audiologist can perform diagnostic testing to determine if you have a hearing loss, how severe it is, and if you would benefit from prescription hearing aids.

During a diagnostic hearing evaluation, an audiologist examines your outer ear with an otoscope or video otoscope. This helps the audiologist observe any damage caused by the use of cotton applicators (“Q-tips”), trauma, or chronic infection. An audiologist can also observe the condition of the ear drum and determine whether the ear canal may have a build-up of earwax causing a hearing loss.

After considering a patient’s history and performing a visual inspection of the outer ear, the audiologist can perform an audiological evaluation composed of a series of tests. These tests may include but are not limited to:

  • Tympanometry to assess the status of the middle ear.
  • Pure tone thresholds by air conduction and often by bone conduction to determine the degree and type of hearing loss.
  • Tests of speech threshold and speech recognition to assess comprehension of complex signals.
  • Special tests of auditory function, such as otoacoustic emissions, brainstem auditory evoked response (BAER), or balance testing.

In addition to testing hearing and balance, an audiologist also can:

  • Recommend, fit/dispense, service, and adjust prescription hearing aids.
  • Recommend and provide assistive listening devices (products to enhance telephone conversations, television viewing, etc.).
  • Provide tinnitus assessment and management.
  • Provide education regarding the effects of noise on hearing and prevention of hearing loss.
  • Deliver counseling and aural rehabilitation (counseling, education, auditory training/exercises).

If you think you may have hearing loss and are interested in the many benefits that hearing aids may offer, schedule an appointment with a doctoral-level audiologist.