(CNN) — Your health plans for the new year may need to include getting tested to see if you need hearing aids.
Using hearing aids if you need them may help protect you from premature death, according to a new study published this Wednesday in The Lancet Healthy Longevity.
“We found that the risk of mortality among people who used hearing aids was 24% lower,” said Dr. Janet Choi, assistant professor of clinical otolaryngology and head and neck surgery at Keck University School of Medicine in Southern California. otolaryngologist at Keck Medicine of the University of Southern California.
The study analyzed data from 10,000 people (of whom more than 1,800 had hearing loss) and tracked their mortality between 1999 and 2012.
According to the study, about 237 people with hearing loss reported using hearing aids at least once a week, while 1,483 reported never using 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 found.
According to the study, the risk of mortality was lower in 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, approximately 30 million people age 12 and older in the United States have hearing loss in both ears.
But only about 15% of those who could benefit from hearing aids use them, according to the author of an April study.
“The (new) research highlights the critical role of targeting modifiable risk factors not only for immediate health benefits, but also as a powerful strategy for improving longevity and overall well-being,” said Dr. Thomas Holland, a 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 strengthens the understanding that hearing loss and life expectancy are linked, but questions still remain about why, Choi said.
“This is an association study. “We haven’t really looked at the mechanism of these associations,” he said.
But there are some hypotheses about why there is a link between hearing aids and longevity.
Previous studies have shown a link between hearing loss and frailty, and there is evidence that untreated hearing loss can impact social isolation, dementia and decline in physical activity and cognitive function, Choi said.
“There are also some studies that show that hearing deprivation itself (not getting enough sound) can have a negative impact on brain structures,” he added.
A growing body of research suggests that if you notice a difference in your hearing, you should get it checked, says Choi.
Hearing loss should not be “seen as something related to (a) normal part of aging that nothing can be done about,” he added. “More studies will be published that will show that hearing aids are beneficial and have a positive impact. And we all know that at the end of the day, it really helps improve 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 older,” he added. “They don’t want to be associated with a disability, but it really doesn’t have to be that way.”
It’s important to be proactive when it comes to addressing health risks, especially when they are as easy to modify as hearing aids, Holland said.
Work closely with your doctors and stay in control by monitoring your sleep, exercise, diet, alcohol consumption, blood pressure and blood sugar levels for a longer, healthier life, he added.
“By strengthening your partnership with your healthcare provider and adopting a lifestyle that prioritizes these factors, you give yourself the opportunity to create a strong foundation for long-term well-being and vitality,” Holland said.
Clarification: This article has been updated to clarify the source of the percentage of people using hearing aids.