Harvard Health Letter

Does hearing loss boost death risk?

News briefs

A recent study suggests that the more hearing impairment you have, the more your health may be at risk. A study published online Sept. 24, 2015, by JAMA Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery found that mild hearing impairment was linked with a 21% increased risk of death, and moderate-to-severe hearing impairment was linked with a 39% increased risk of death, compared with people who did not have hearing loss. Researchers combed through large surveys of about 1,700 adults ages 70 or older who had undergone hearing tests and adjusted the results for heart disease and other risk factors. "The findings do not indicate that hearing loss causes an increase in mortality, or that hearing aids might reduce that risk. Instead, age-related hearing loss reflects accumulated stresses and damage of a lifetime, so perhaps we should not be surprised that hearing loss is not the only health impact of those stresses," says Dr. Steven Rauch, an ear, nose and throat specialist and the medical director of the Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts Eye and Ear Balance and Vestibular Center.