Individuals with hearing loss in Tucson have an increased likelihood of developing dementia – especially if they don’t seek treatment for their condition. The good news? Research shows that hearing aids won’t only help patients hear more clearly, they may even delay the onset of dementia
Hearing Loss and Cognitive Decline
The link between hearing loss and cognitive decline was established years ago. Johns Hopkins University and the Lancet Commission on Dementia Prevention, Intervention and Care, among other groups, have published studies highlighting these findings. More recently, a large-scale
French study came to the same conclusion. Researchers followed 3,700 people over a 25-year period and found that individuals with hearing loss over the age of 65 were 35 percent more likely to experience dementia compared to their peers with normal hearing. Their risk went up an additional 20 percent for each corresponding 10-decibel loss in hearing ability.
While these results, coupled with previous research, left little doubt of a connection between hearing impairment and cognitive decline, nobody was sure if wearing hearing aids might help mitigate that risk.
A team of researchers from the University of Exeter and King’s College in London set out to study that question. They tracked 25,000 people over the age of 50 who had been diagnosed with hearing loss and divided them into two groups, based on whether or not they were treating their condition with hearing aids. All participants were administered cognitive tests annually for a two-year period. The group who wore hearing aids had higher working memory and attention test scores and quicker reaction times than those who were not using hearing aids – results that support the notion that hearing aids help delay dementia and other forms of cognitive decline.
“Previous research has shown that hearing loss is linked to a loss of brain function, memory and an increased risk of dementia,” explained Dr. Anne Corbett, the team’s lead researcher. “Our work is one of the largest studies to look at the impact of wearing a hearing aid and suggests that wearing a hearing aid could actually protect the brain. We now need more research and a clinical trial to test this and perhaps feed into policy to help keep people healthy in later life.”
Professor Clive Ballard added, “The message here is that if you’re advised you need a hearing aid, find one that works for you. At the very least it will improve your hearing and it could help keep your brain sharp too.”
For more information on the link between hearing loss and dementia, or to schedule a hearing test and learn more about treatment options, reach out to a Tucson audiologist today.