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Hearing loss is a common feature of aging and a known risk factor for poor quality of life, depression, dementia, and early death. Roughly two-thirds of adults over 70 have some degree of hearing loss, but few seek out treatment. A recent study found that hearing aids reduce the risk of premature death in older adults with hearing loss by 24 percent.

The study involved more than 9,800 adults (average age, 48 years) enrolled in the NHANES studies. Participants underwent hearing tests and completed questionnaires about their hearing aid use over a ten-year period.

The tests and questionnaires revealed that nearly 15 percent of the participants had some hearing loss. However, fewer than 13 percent of those with hearing loss regularly used hearing aids. Those with hearing loss who did wear hearing aids were 24 percent less likely to die prematurely than those who didn’t, even after taking demographics, hearing levels, and medical history into account.

These findings suggest hearing aids reduce the risk of premature death in older adults with hearing loss. Other evidence demonstrates that hearing aids benefit older adults at high risk for cognitive decline. Interestingly, another study found that the risk of developing mild hearing loss was nearly 30 percent lower among people who adhered to healthy dietary patterns such as the DASH diet or the Mediterranean diet, suggesting that diet may play a role in preventing mild hearing loss.

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