In a study of 385 adults 45 and older with hearing loss in Linyi City, Shandong Province, China, published in BMC Medicine, researchers studied the improvements in quality of life (QoL) measures after the group was provided with free hearing aids.

According to the published study, research on the effects of hearing aids on broader outcomes like “ mental health, physical health, cognitive function, and social engagement are also inconsistent to some degree.” Additionally, “studies in Jilin, Guangdong, Shaanxi, and Gansu provinces of China found that only 6.5% of the older adults with hearing loss had hearing aids,” which led researchers to hypothesize that the hearing aids would have a more pronounced effect in a place with less hearing aid use.

In addition to measuring the effect of hearing aids on QoL, researchers looked at “secondary outcomes,” which included the presence of chronic disease like diabetes or hypertension; ability to perform activities involved with daily living; the presence of depressive symptoms, and cognitive function.

The researchers concluded that hearing aids had some effect on hearing-related QoL, but no effect on generic QoL related to mobility, body pain, and emotional health, among other factors. Additionally, the intervention reduced some of the depressive symptoms reported, but only among those with active social networks or activities.

Further, the researchers say:

It is imperative that middle and older adults with age-related hearing loss wear hearing aids regularly to recover their hearing, as well as strengthen their social participation and social network to further improve QoL. The intervention is expected to be scaled up through its integration within the health insurance system in China and be adapted to other similar settings in developing countries facing the problem of untreated hearing loss.

Original Paper: Ye X, Zhu D, Chen S, et al. Effects of providing free hearing aids on multiple health outcomes among middle-aged and older adults with hearing loss in rural China: a randomized controlled trial. BMC Medicine. 2022;20(124).

Source: BMC Medicine