Wear hearing aids? Extend life

Wear hearing aids?  Extend life

Feeling good – in the literal sense of having hearing that works – extends your life. That’s right, and this is so true that hearing aids worn by those who need them reduce the risk of premature death by 24%. Always as long as you wear them, because many – for various reasons – often prefer not to use them.

But let’s get to the study, conducted at the Keck Medical Center of the University of Southern California. “We found that adults with hearing loss who regularly use hearing aids have a 24% lower risk of mortality than those who don’t. they never wear,” he said Janet Choian otolaryngologist at Keck Medicine and lead author of the study, the results of which are published on Lancet Healthy Longevity. “And they are exciting results – added Choi – because they tell us that hearing aids can have a protective role in health and prevent premature death”.

Hearing and risk of death

If left untreated, an acoustic deficit (or hearing loss, a word that expresses both total deafness and a partial deficit, in one or both ears), can lead to a reduction in lifespan, as do social isolation, depression or dementia. And this is an already known fact that various authors and research have dealt with. But the studies that have attempted to understand whether and to what extent the use of hearing aids can reduce the risk of death are few, so much so that according to the authors this one we are talking about is the first of its kind in the United States.

Regular users

To make it happen, Choi, who is a doctor but also a patient, given that she was born with a hearing impairment but did not wear a hearing aid until she was 30, used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey collected between 1999 and 2012 to identify nearly 10,000 adults over the age of 20 who had undergone an audiometric test, the test that measures hearing ability, and had answered questions about the use or non-use of hearing aids. In doing so, they identified three types of people: regular users of hearing aids (those who reported wearing the aids at least once a week, for five hours a week), non-users and habitual non-users (those who reported wearing them hearing aids once a month or less).

By following all these people for about ten years, Choi and his colleagues calculated that the risk of mortality between regular users of hearing aids and non-users differed by almost 25%, to the advantage of the former. And they saw that this difference, this advantage, was independent of the severity of the hearing loss, age, income, education level and other demographic data, as well as the medical history of the people. However, they found no differences in risk between non-habitual users and non-users, a finding that seems to suggest that occasional use of hearing aids may not provide clear benefits in terms of length of life.

Hearing and depression

The study did not investigate the causes why hearing aids seem to prolong life, the expert’s hypothesis is that the use of these sound amplifiers (this is what hearing aids do: they amplify sounds) being associated with lower levels of depression and dementia improve mental and cognitive health, therefore better general health, which in fact undoubtedly has something to do with lifespan.

Encourage use

Choi said she hopes that the result of her study will encourage those who do not yet wear hearing aids, although she herself recognizes that there is more than one obstacle to overcome for this hope to come true. For example, there is the cost of braces, which is not exactly affordable for anyone anywhere in the world. There’s the stigma that can affect wearers, and then there’s the difficulty of finding devices that fit your needs. Choi herself, who, as we said, is both a doctor and a patient, took several years – as she declared – to find the right device.

WHO data

According to the World Health Organization, approximately 5% of the population in the world today lives with a hearing deficit, which according to the WHO consists of the inability to hear like a normal-hearing person and is linked to various factors and “the combined effects of toxicity environmental in terms of noise and metabolic-oxidative damage, aging, disease and heredity”. And by 2050 it could experience one form of hearing impairment one in four people. In Italy, people with hearing problems (including all levels of severity) there are around 7 millionor 12.1% of the population.

Young people…

According to the WHO, due to unsafe listening habits (particular recreational situations, frequent use of headphones at high volume, etc.), over a billion young people in the world could be at risk of hearing loss.


If it is not identified and corrected, hearing loss negatively affects language development and psychophysical well-being starting from the early stages of life. In fact, according to the WHO, the secondary prevention of deafness through neonatal screening programs is the key to drastically reducing the disabling effects of the most frequent congenital neurosensory pathologies. Currently, in industrialized countries, permanent hearing loss affects approximately 1-2 newborns out of 1000 subjected to screening tests at birth. The number of permanent hearing defects increases with age with a prevalence of 2-3 per thousand at 5 years of age and 3-4 per thousand in adolescence.

Screening at birth

Over 95% of newborns received a hearing screening in Italy in 2017, usually before discharge from the birth center. In our country, the Prime Ministerial Decree of 12 January 2017 defining the Essential Levels of Assistance (Lea) guarantees neonatal hearing screening for all newborns. However, hearing loss increases with age: in fact, the increase in the disorder with aging is notable: at percentages that do not exceed 10% between 13 and 45 years, it rises to 25% among those aged between 61 and 80, up to 50% among those over 80 (source: Censis).

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