Hearing aids may help people with hearing loss live longer than those who do not use the devices, new research suggests.
The findings indicate that hearing aids reduce the risk of death by almost 25%, and that those who do not use hearing aids but should, may want to reconsider.
Past research has suggested that untreated hearing loss can result in a reduced life span.
These results are exciting because they suggest that hearing aids may play a protective role in people’s health and prevent early death
But until now, there has been very little research looking at whether hearing aids can reduce the risk of death.
Dr Janet Choi, lead researcher with Keck Medicine of University of Southern California, USA, said: “We found that adults with hearing loss who regularly used hearing aids had a 24% lower risk of mortality than those who never wore them.
“These results are exciting because they suggest that hearing aids may play a protective role in people’s health and prevent early death.”
According to hearing loss charity RNID, 12 million adults in the UK are deaf, have hearing loss or tinnitus.
An estimated seven million could benefit from hearing aids but only about two million use them.
The researchers used American data compiled by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between 1999-2012 to identify almost 10,000 adults 20 years and older who had had hearing evaluations, and who filled out questionnaires about their hearing aid use.
Those involved in the study were followed up for a period of 10 years after their evaluations.
A total of 1,863 adults were identified as having hearing loss.
Of these, 237 reported using hearing aids regularly – at least once a week, five hours a week or half the time, and 1,483 were identified as never-users of the devices.
People who reported wearing the devices less than once a month or less frequently were categorised as non-regular users.
The study found that the 24% difference in death risk between regular hearing aid users and never-users remained steady, regardless of factors such as the degree of hearing loss, age, ethnicity, income, education and other demographics; and medical history.
There was no difference in death risk between non-regular users and never users, indicating that using hearing aids occasionally may not provide any life-extending benefit.
The researchers hope the findings, published in The Lancet Healthy Longevity journal, will encourage more people to wear hearing aids.
But they acknowledge that factors such as stigma and difficulty finding devices that fit and function well, are barriers to use.
Crystal Rolfe, director of health at RNID, said: “Hearing aids bring enormous benefits for people with hearing loss.
“Research shows that wearing hearing aids may reduce the risk of cognitive decline, and it is well known that they have positive effects on physical, social, emotional and mental wellbeing.
“Now it’s possible that hearing aids may even help people with hearing loss live longer, and we would welcome more research to understand the link.
“If you think you might have hearing loss, make checking your hearing your new year’s resolution – the benefits could be limitless.”
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