Starkey image
ReSound image

Regular Hearing Aid Use Is Associated with Reduced Mortality, Says New Study

Adults with hearing loss who regularly use their hearing aids may experience a remarkable 24% lower risk of mortality compared to non-users.
Grandfather with hearing aids and grandson

A new study published in the January 2024 edition of The Lancet demonstrates that regular hearing aid use was significantly associated with a lower risk of mortality.

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 in the United States. Drawing on data from the 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.

Janet Choi Keck Medicine Usc

Janet Choi, MD, MPH

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.

The research also points to the underuse of hearing aids: only 12.7% of people with hearing loss in the study used hearing aids.

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.” 

— Janet Choi, MD, MPH

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. Undeterred, 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 Frank Lin of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Meredith Adams of the University of Minnesota, and Eileen Crimmins and Jennifer Ailshire of the University of Southern California.

Source: University of Southern California-Health Sciences and The Lancet Healthy Longevity


Editor in Chief

Karl Strom is the Editor in Chief of HearingTracker. He has been covering the hearing aid industry for over 30 years.