(CNN) — Your New Year’s health resolution may include getting tested to see if you need hearing aids.
If you need hearing aids, using them may help protect you from premature death, according to a new study published this Wednesday in The Lancet Healthy Longevity journal.
Dr. is assistant professor of clinical otolaryngology and head and neck surgery at the University of Southern California and Keck School of Medicine. “We found that people who used hearing aids had a 24% lower risk of mortality,” said Janet Choi. Otolaryngologist at Keck Medicine of USC.
The study analyzed data from 10,000 people (more than 1,800 of whom were identified as having hearing loss) and tracked their mortality between 1999 and 2012.
According to the research, about 237 of those with hearing loss reported using hearing aids at least once a week, while 1,483 never used them.
There was no difference in the risk of death during the study period between people who used hearing aids occasionally and those who never used them, but regular users had a significantly lower risk, the study showed.
And the risk of death was lower for hearing aid users regardless of factors such as age, ethnicity, income, education, medical history, and degree of hearing loss.
According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, about 30 million people in the United States age 12 and older have hearing loss in both ears.
But according to the authors of an April study, only 15% of those who would benefit from hearing aids are actually using them.
“(The new) study emphasizes the important role of addressing modifiable risk factors as a powerful strategy to improve longevity and overall well-being, not just for immediate health benefits,” Dr. said Thomas Holland, MD scientist at the Rush Institute. Healthy Aging, via email. Holland was not involved in the investigation.
Fortunately, over-the-counter, self-fitting hearing aids are now available, and an April study shows they can be just as effective as those fitted by an audiologist.
Why are hearing aids so useful?
The latest study further supports the understanding that hearing loss and life expectancy are linked, but there are still questions as to why, Choi said.
“This is an association study. “We don’t really specifically look at the mechanism behind these associations,” he said.
But there are some hypotheses about why the relationship between hearing aids and longevity exists.
Previous studies have shown a connection between hearing loss and frailty, and there is evidence that untreated hearing loss can lead to social isolation, dementia and reduced physical activity and cognitive function, Choi said.
“There are also some studies that show that hearing deprivation (not getting enough sound) can have a negative effect on brain structure,” he added.
Get checked up
A growing body of research shows that if you notice a difference in your hearing, you should get it checked out, Choi said.
Hearing loss should not be treated as “(a) normal part of aging for which nothing can be done,” he added. “Even more studies will be published showing that hearing aids are useful and have a positive effect. And we all know that, at the end of the day, it really helps with communication and quality of life for patients.
If you have hearing loss, at least try hearing aids, especially with significant improvements in technology, Choi said.
“A lot of people don’t use hearing aids because they don’t want to look old,” he added. “They don’t want to be associated with disability, but it doesn’t really have to be that way.”
It’s important to be proactive when it comes to addressing health risks, especially when they’re as easily replaceable as hearing aids, Holland said.
Work closely with your doctors and stay on top of your controls while monitoring your sleep, exercise, nutrition, alcohol intake, blood pressure and blood sugar for a long, healthy life, he added.
“By fostering a partnership with your healthcare provider and adopting a lifestyle that prioritizes these factors, you empower yourself to build a strong foundation for lasting wellness and vitality,” said Holland.
Clarification: This story has been updated to clarify the source of the percentage of people using hearing aids.