Hearing aids


Roundup: Hearing Aids Linked to Living Longer; Mostly Plant-Based Diets Still Best in 2024; and More News

Using Hearing Aids on a Regular Basis, If Needed, May Help People Live Longer, Researchers Find

Wearing hearing aids regularly for hearing loss may go much further for a person's overall health, according to a new study which links the use of these devices to a nearly 25 percent lower risk of an early death.

Hearing loss affects an estimated 40 million U.S. adults, yet only one in 10 people who need hearing aids use them, previous research has found. Previous studies have also found an association with hearing aid use and lowered levels of depression and dementia.

The new study from Keck Medicine of USC (University of Southern California), published in The Lancet Healthy Longevity, found that an almost 25 percent difference in mortality risk "between regular hearing aid users and never-users remained steady, regardless of variables such as the degree of hearing loss (from mild to severe); age, ethnicity, income, education and other demographics; and medical history."

Moreover, there was no difference in mortality risk between non-regular users and never users, indicating that occasional hearing aid use may not provide any life-extending benefit. 

“These results are exciting because they suggest that hearing aids may play a protective role in people’s health and prevent early death,” said Janet Choi, M.D., MPH, an otolaryngologist with Keck Medicine and lead researcher of the study, in a statement.

Dr. Choi speculates that the improvements in mental health and cognition that come with improved hearing can promote better overall health, which may improve life span. 

Researchers used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between 1999-2012 to identify nearly 10,000 adults 20 years and older who had completed audiometry evaluations, a test used to measure hearing ability. They also filled out questionnaires about their hearing aid use. Researchers followed their mortality status over an average follow-up period of 10 years after their evaluations. 

In news release, Dr. Choi said she hopes this study "will encourage more people to wear hearing aids, even though she acknowledges that factors, including cost, stigma and difficulty finding devices that fit and function well, are barriers to use."

Balanced, Plant-Based Diets Again Top Diet Ratings by U.S. News & World Report for 2024

The Mediterranean Diet, promoted widely by nutrition and medical experts, earned the title of best overall diet for the seventh consecutive year, according to the new 2024 ratings from U.S. News & World Report

“The Mediterranean diet is the No. 1 Best Diet Overall,” states U.S. News & World Report. “It’s also a top-rated diet for those looking for a heart-healthy diet, a diabetes-friendly diet or to promote bone and joint health.”

The DASH diet (dietary approaches to stop hypertension) won second place for best diet, with the MIND diet (Mediterranean-DASH intervention for neurodegenerative delay) coming in third on the list of 30 diets. All three top diets are plant-based, focused on fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans and seeds.

The DASH diet emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and low-fat dairy. This eating pattern limits foods with added sugar and those high in saturated fat – such as fatty meats, full-fat dairy foods and tropical oils.

The MIND diet takes two proven diets – DASH and Mediterranean – and focuses on the foods in each that specifically improve brain health to potentially lower your risk of mental decline. “Although there’s no surefire way to prevent Alzheimer’s disease, which the MIND diet initially targeted, or other types of dementia, eating healthful mainstays – such as leafy greens, nuts and berries – may lower a person’s risk of developing the progressive brain disorder,” states U.S. News & World Report.

The U.S. government’s dietary guidelines, also known as My Plate, focus on plant-based options. About half of the government’s My Plate is fruits and vegetables, while the other half is grains and protein. Overall, 75 percent of the plate has always been plant-based.

Researchers Move Forward in Early Stage of Developing Vaccine to Lower Cholesterol

Sometimes called the “bad” cholesterol, LDL (low-density lipoprotein), makes up most of your body’s cholesterol, and high levels of LDL can raise your risk for heart disease and stroke. Now, researchers said they are in the early phase of developing a vaccine that lowers LDL cholesterol almost as effectively as prescribed medication or injections – although clinical trials have yet to be launched. 

In tests on mice and monkeys, a team led by researchers from the University of New Mexico and the University of California, Davis were able to reduce LDL levels by targeting a protein called proprotein convertase subtilisin/kexin type 9 (PCSK9). Essentially, the more PCSK9 your body makes, the higher a person’s LDL cholesterol.

Researchers at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine used vaccine platform technology they developed and partnered with researchers across the U.S. to create a new vaccine that specifically targets PCSK9. Their findings were published in NPJ Vaccines.

Over the past 10 years, the vaccine has been tested on mice and monkeys with promising results, said a news release from the University of New Mexico School of Medicine. “The next step is to find funding to move into vaccine manufacturing and clinical trials with humans,” the news release states. “That process can take years and several million dollars, but it is worth it to develop a vaccine that is pure, safe and affordable.” 

When your body has too much LDL cholesterol, the LDL cholesterol can build up on the walls of your blood vessels. This buildup is called “plaque,” and it can cause health problems, such as heart disease and stroke.

Nearly two in five U.S. adults have high cholesterol, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

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