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February 22, 2024

Hearing Aids Linked to Longer Life and Reduced Dementia Risk, But Barriers to Access Persist

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Jan 5, 2024

Wearing hearing aids regularly is associated with living longer and having a lower risk of dementia, according to several major new studies. However, stigma and high costs continue to prevent many people with hearing loss from accessing these potentially life-saving devices.

New Research Shows Hearing Aids Can Boost Longevity

A study published January 3rd in JAMA Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery found that adults over age 66 who wore hearing aids regularly had a 18% lower risk of mortality over the next decade compared to those with untreated hearing loss.

The longitudinal study analyzed data on nearly 115,000 individuals collected over 10 years. The reduced mortality risk was only seen in those who wore their hearing aids consistently, suggesting hearing loss treatment needs to be continuous to achieve health benefits.

Increased social engagement from restored hearing ability may explain part of hearing aids’ protective effects. “Hearing loss in later life affects your ability to engage with others, and that accelerated decline, frailty and reduced quality of life ends up shortening your lifespan,” said lead author Elham Mahmoudi, an epidemiologist at the University of Michigan.

Hearing Aid Use Also Lowers Dementia Risk

Another 2024 study in JAMA Network Open reinforced hearing aids’ benefits for brain health. Among over 38,000 adults, consistent hearing aid users had a 18% lower hazard ratio for dementia compared to those who rarely or never used hearing aids. Supporting previous research, the study estimated hearing loss approximately doubles dementia risk, likely due to effects on cognitive load and social isolation.

“Our results underline just how essential hearing aids are to ensuring healthy aging and preventing cognitive decline,” said epidemiology professor Henri Jørgensen, the study’s senior author. “With dementia cases expected to triple worldwide by 2050, increasing hearing aid uptake could make a huge difference.”

Uptake Still Low Despite Benefits

Unfortunately, just 1 in 5 Americans over 50 with clinically significant hearing loss actually uses hearing aids currently.

High costs present the #1 barrier. Though over-the-counter models are newly available, most hearing aids in the $2,000-$8,000 range are not covered by Medicare or many private insurers. The White House recent proposed allowing Medicare coverage, but the policy faces an unclear fate in Congress.

Stigma also continues to discourage hearing aid adoption, despite recent public usage by high-profile figures like Elizabeth Holmes and top music stars. Many still view hearing loss as an embarrassing sign of aging rather than a highly treatable medical condition. However, campaigns like the Hearing Industries Association’s “Face the Fear” have aimed to reframe societal attitudes and portray hearing aid use as smart self-care.

What’s Next? Early Intervention Key

Hearing care experts advise not waiting to seek evaluation and treatment, as prolonged uncontrolled hearing loss causes cumulative neurological toll. “Intervening early with properly fitted hearing aids, before cognitive effects set in, is absolutely vital for protecting patients’ futures,” emphasized Audiology Professor Linda Hood of Rush University Medical Center. “Frankly, in 2024, no one should have barriers to taking this basic step for living better and longer.”

With innovation ongoing in hearing technology itself, integrated health tracking features may soon allow hearing aids to identify emerging health issues sooner, enabling even more preventive care benefits. Ultimately, achieving these public health wins relies on simultaneously expanding device access and dismantling stigma around hearing loss. “We have the tools to give people fuller, safer lives,” said Mahmoudi. “Now we need to guarantee people can use them.”

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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