Hearing Aids Mitigate Cognitive Decline in Older People

Hearing Aids Mitigate Cognitive Decline in Older People

Hearing loss is a condition in which it’s difficult to hear, but it’s far worse than that. Unaddressed hearing loss can have a wide range of disastrous effects, including rifts in relationships, issues in professional positions, chronic depression, social isolation and a higher risk of falls and accidents leading to hospitalizations. However, one of the most alarming side effects of even a mild hearing loss is cognitive decline.

Hearing loss often creeps up subtly over time, with the absence of certain tones or pitches. You may not know you have it, but that doesn’t mean it’s not affecting your cognitive function. Studies have shown that not only do those with a mild hearing loss score lower on cognitive testing but that a moderate case can double your risk of developing dementia. However, these same studies have found that addressing a hearing loss with hearing aids has been found to mitigate these effects!

Understanding Hearing Aids

There are so many stigmas which keep people from addressing a hearing loss, such a shame, denial, fear of seeming old or daunted by the cost. However, hearing aids, when worn correctly can amplify the sounds you need to hear, based on your examination to help you participate in everyday conversations, reconnect to loved ones, excel at work and even improve cognitive function. These tiny electronic devices come in a wide array of styles but fit in or around the ear. 

A Study on Cognitive Performance with the Use of Hearing Aids

It has been well documented that hearing loss has increased the risk of cognitive decline and dementia. However, a recent study, led by Dr. Asri Maharani at the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom, sought to find a connection as the efficacy of hearing aids in mitigating cognitive decline. the study, published in the Journal of the American Geriatric Society in 2018 under the title “Longitudinal Relationship Between Hearing Aid Use and Cognitive Function in Older Americans.” took advantage of a large data base to build it’s connections. Part of this data is derived from the Health and Retirement Study, which measured cognitive performance every two years over the course of 18 years (from 1996-2014). 2,040 adults over the age of 50 took part in this study in at least three waves, tracking cognitive ability over a six-year span. In addition, each participant was tasked with wearing hearing aids for the first time.

A simple cognitive test was used to identity and measure cognitive decline, in which. participants were asked to recall 10 words both immediately and after a delay in time. This helped researchers identify effects on short and long-term memory in combination with hearing aid use.

The Study Findings 

While there was not a cohort which did not wear hearing aids, no comparison was able to be made on cognitive decline without hearing aids. However, the researchers were able to track the effect of hearing aids on the rate of cognitive decline. Its common for people to struggle with some degree of cognitive decline as we age, especially in the form of some episodic memory loss. What stood out in this study was that researchers found that the rate of cognitive decline notably slowed down when regular hearing aid use was implemented. This means that the rate of decline was faster before hearing aids were used than after participants began using them.  This study illuminates the significant effect that unaddressed hearing loss has on our cognitive health.

Cognitive function’s relationship to Hearing Loss

When we struggle to hear parts of words, it makes it difficult to follow simple conversations. Certain consonants go missing and you may find yourself struggling to purt together the most basic of spoken concepts. Many researchers think that communication ability is the crucial piece of the puzzle linking hearing and cognition. 

Aside from issues connecting speech and words, when we can’t hear certain sounds, we suffer from auditory deprivation. Our brain simply doesn’t not receive these sounds and over time can be at risk of brain atrophy – a major risk for dementia.

Schedule a Hearing Exam

If you suspect that you may have hearing loss or if you are past the age of 60, we urge you to schedule regular hearing exams. Schedule your next one with us today and invest in the future of your cognitive health.