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Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Using hearing aids reduces mortality by 24% in people with hearing loss

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Dr. Janet Choi, a Korean-American otolaryngologist at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California (USC), recently published a study showing that wearing hearing aids reduces mortality in people with hearing loss.

Dr. Choi’s paper was recently published in the medical journal Lancet Healthy Longevity.

Using data collected from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) between 1999 and 2012, Dr. Choi and her team examined the correlation between hearing aid use and mortality among 9,885 audiometric patients aged 20 years and older. The results showed a 24% reduction in mortality among patients with hearing loss who wore hearing aids.

The Korea Daily interviewed Dr. Choi, who was born with a congenital hearing loss in her left ear, on January 8.

Janet S. Choi, MD

The following is an edited excerpt from the interview.

-What inspired your research?
“I was born with hearing loss in my left ear and had surgery when I was young, which was not successful. So I was very interested in hearing loss, and after becoming a doctor, I decided to conduct more detailed research on the effectiveness of hearing aids.”

-Do you wear hearing aids?
“Yes, I do. I spent most of my school years in South Korea, where my parents were reluctant to let me wear hearing aids because they feared their daughter would be teased. As a result, I didn’t wear hearing aids until I was 30. But when I became a doctor and did research on hearing loss, I realized that getting hearing aids as early as possible is good for one’s health.”

-The results of the study are interesting.
“I expected to see a difference, but the 24% lower mortality rate was a surprise to me personally. A total of 1,863 of the subjects had hearing loss, but only 237 (12.7%) used hearing aids regularly at least once a week. The remaining almost 90% rarely used hearing aids. Interestingly, variables such as degree of hearing loss, age, race, and income did not significantly affect mortality.”

-What causes the difference in mortality?
“We know from research that severe hearing loss is associated with higher rates of dementia and depression and can lead to social isolation. Here, hearing aids play a role in improving mental health and cognition and improving quality of life. When you look at this in the bigger picture of longevity, the role of hearing aids becomes even more clear.”

-Koreans’ perceptions of hearing aids are not as positive.
“In previous studies, there was no significant difference in the percentage of hearing loss between Asians and other ethnicities, but the use of hearing aids was much lower among Asians. This could be due to factors such as their status, insurance, and the cost of purchasing them, but it could also be due to social prejudice. In the past, I conducted a focus group study with about 20 Asians, including Korean Americans, and many of them said that wearing hearing aids makes them look stupid, old, or disabled. The prevailing sentiment was that using hearing aids was a sign of weakness.”

-When should someone consider wearing hearing aids?
“Get tested first, and if you are identified as a candidate for hearing aids, start as soon as possible and wear them regularly. You can now easily buy hearing aids over the counter without a prescription. Hearing aids have a huge impact on quality of life, which in turn reduces the likelihood of developing secondary conditions such as dementia and, as studies have shown, also affects the risk of death.”

BY SUAH JANG, JUNHAN PARK [jang.suah@koreadaily.com]