A study on the benefits of using hearing aids found that using the devices can counteract many of the negative health outcomes associated with hearing loss.
Over 20,000 adults age 65 and better with a Medicare Supplement plan participated in a phone survey that included questions about hearing loss, hearing aid use, health, and well-being. Overall, participants who reported more hearing loss tended to be older, male, in poorer health, or lonely, as well as having cardiovascular disease or mobility limitations.
The good news was that using hearing aids helped reduce or eliminate many of these negative health outcomes. This was true for health status, exercise frequency, and frequency of getting out of the house. Older adults who used hearing aids showed similar outcomes on these measures as participants without hearing loss, while those with un-aided hearing loss reported worse outcomes.
For depression, social support, and mobility limitations, participants who used hearing aids still reported more negative outcomes than those with no hearing loss, but these outcomes were even more severe in participants with un-aided hearing loss. Unfortunately, hearing aid use did not affect loneliness or memory loss.
One interpretation of the results could be that older adults who are more health-conscious are also more likely to use hearing aids. This could partially explain the findings, but the researchers pointed to past studies that suggested hearing aids are important for quality of life and may even improve balance.
Surprisingly, only about half of adults with mild hearing loss and about three-quarters with severe hearing loss reported using hearing aids, despite being aware of their condition. This could mean older adults are dissuaded from correcting their hearing due to the high cost and associated stigmatization of hearing aids. Advances in this technology will hopefully allow for reduced prices, better aesthetics, and more access to hearing aids, which would mean better health outcomes and quality of life for more older adults.
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Wells TS, Nickels LD, Rush SR, Musich SA, Bhattarai GR, and Yeh CS. Characteristics and health outcomes associated with hearing loss and hearing aid use among older adults. Journal of Aging and Health. (2019). DOI:10.1177/0898264319848866