Wearing hearing aids routinely could lengthen people's lives, study suggests

A hearing aid is placed in a man's ear. (Photo by: BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Hearing loss affects 48 million people nationwide, and it's expected to increase within the next 40 years, according to the National Council on Aging.

And when hearing loss goes untreated, it can double the risk of dementia and is also associated with depression, anxiety, and a higher risk of falls, the National Council on Aging noted. 

In a study published in The Lancet Healthy Longevity, a medical journal, researchers examined the connection between hearing loss, hearing aid use, and death in the U.S.

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The team collected data from more than 9,000 participants 20 years old and older, who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) between 1999 and 2012 and completed hearing aid use questionnaires.

Researchers used audio equipment and sound booths to perform hearing tests on participants, and the team documented hearing loss in three categories: mild, moderate, and severe to profound hearing loss.

Hearing aid use was also documented in three categories as well (never, regular, and non-regular hearing aid users) based on interview data with participants. 

Regular hearing aid use in the report is defined as frequent use of the device within the past 12 months, either once a week, once a day, or almost always at least once a month or less frequently than once a month.

The study noted that participants who reported using a hearing aid occasionally didn't meet the criteria for regular hearing aid users and were characterized as "non-regular hearing aid users."

According to the study, researchers suggested that the mortality risk was lower for regular hearing aid users versus those who don't use hearing aids. 

While the study offers one version of a correlation between hearing loss and life expectancy, the team concluded that additional research is needed to investigate hearing aid use against death for adults with hearing loss.

This story was reported from Washington, D.C.