LOS ANGELES — According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hearing loss affects about 40 million American adults. Suzy Friendly is one of them.

“The buzzing in my ear had gotten a lot worse,” she said. “I went to my ENT, and we did hearing tests, and my hearing had dropped considerably.”

Friendly lives in Valley Village and has been wearing hearing aids for a few years now. At 82, she enjoys staying active, playing pilates and pickleball. When she wasn’t wearing her hearing aids, she said it was tough to socialize with friends.

“Restaurants and all, it’s very difficult to hear if there’s a bunch of us together,” she said.

Now, new research out of USC finds hearing aids may help people live longer.

Dr. Janet Choi with Keck Medicine of USC isn’t just an ear, nose and throat specialist. She was born with hearing loss herself in her left ear but didn’t begin using a hearing aid until she was in her 30s.

“My parents thought that my friends were going to make fun of me if I start using hearing aids when I was little, so I didn’t really think about it because I had good hearing on my right side,” Choi said.

Until now, there has been very little research examining whether the use of hearing aids can reduce the risk of death. The study represents the most comprehensive analysis to date on the relationship between hearing loss, hearing-aid use and mortality in the U.S., according to Choi.

Choi and her team at USC looked at 10,000 adults. Out of the 1,700 with hearing loss, only 13% used hearing aids regularly, meaning at least once a week or at least five hours a week.

“We found that there was a significant association with the regular hearing aid use at lower risk of dying,” Choi said.

In fact, it was almost 25% lower than those who never wore them, regardless of the degree of hearing loss or other factors, including age, ethnicity and socioeconomic status. The why, though, is still unclear. However, Choi points to research linking hearing aids with lower levels of depression and dementia, but there may also be physical changes.

“Restoring the sound and the auditory input itself may have a positive impact on preventing some of the brain structure changes from hearing loss,” she said.

While the National Council on Aging reports only one in six people between the ages of 20 and 69 who need hearing aids use them, Choi hopes to remove the stigma associated with them.

“I think hearing aids could be something like a part of a fashion item, just like people wearing glasses,” she said.

She acknowledges cost is a factor, and it took her years to find ones that worked effectively. But she said it’s changed her life.

“I was really amazed to hear the sounds that I’ve been missing, especially at work and in the operating room, where there are multiple people talking to me at the same time,” she said.