New study finds using hearing aids can reduce risk of death by nearly 25%

New study finds using hearing aids can reduce risk of death by nearly 25

By Lauren Victory / Updated on: May 7, 2024 / 11:20 PM CDT / CBS Chicago

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Many people don’t take action when their hearing needs help.

A new study found that this could affect how long they live.

At the Swallow Cliff stairs in Palos Park, visitors can huff and puff while their eyes and ears take in nature. One can imagine not being able to enjoy the sounds due to hearing loss.

Audiologist Kristen Conners, of Prescription Hearing, explained some of the signs that mean it might be time for a hearing test.

“Do you hear the birds chirp anymore?” she said. “When you’re outside, are you hearing traffic?”

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Other things to look for include, “You’re having people repeat. You’re sitting around the dinner table and the conversation is going and you can’t really follow what’s being said.”

Dick Hansen’s hearing troubles began about seven years ago. Volume isn’t his only limitation. His check-in with Conners involved a test where he said words with certain tones like “owl” and “it.”

“You think you’re hearing things, but you don’t,” Hansen said. “If you can’t hear, you know you’re missing a lot of stuff.”

Hearing aids help him experience simple things like the sounds of a water fountain.

Reporter: “What happens when you put your earpieces in?”

Hansen: “The world kind of lights up.”

It’s a boost to his mood, and possibly his lifespan.

“There have been a lot of studies from the past 10, 20 years talking about this negative impact of hearing loss,” said Dr. Janet Choi, an ear, nose, and throat doctor at the University of Southern California.

Choi, a hearing aid user herself, wanted to understand the positives of wearing such devices. She and a team of researchers at USC recently found that hearing aid users reduced their risk of death by almost 25%.

So how does Choi hope the findings will help people across the country?

“Just hoping that, as a society, we can pay more attention and try to come up with ways to improve access to hearing healthcare for all,” she said.

Choi referenced one of the biggest barriers to hearing aids: cost.

Many devices run over $1,000 per ear and Medicare doesn’t cover hearing aids, or exams for fitting hearing aids.

Congress considered a 2023 proposal to include hearing aids with Medicare. The legislation went pretty much nowhere.

Might that change now that research shows a better chance of living?

Conners, the audiologist, learned about the lack of Medicare coverage back when she was in school.

“Here we are 30 years later and we’re still talking about it,” she said. “So, it’s really a shame.”

Help is out there. CBS 2 found organizations that provide free hearing screenings and some that even offer hearing aid financial assistance.

Beyond the price tag, Conners said she thinks one of the biggest misconceptions is that hearing aids are not going to work.

Hansen recalls his mother’s struggles with hearing aids.

“Just sitting with her and they’d quit,” he said. “Run to get the batteries and put them in.”

Modern-day advancements convinced him to take the plunge with a pair that is rechargeable.

“Most of them nowadays have Bluetooth technology so connect to your cellphone, you can stream,” Conners said.

Reducing one’s risk of death and not missing a beat sounds relaxing, like a day in the park.

Patients may have heard of the increasingly popular over-the-counter hearing aids. Those tend to be available for a few hundred dollars. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns over-the-counter hearing aids are meant for mild to moderate hearing loss only.

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