A new study conducted jointly by the University of Exeter and King's College London has concluded that people who use a hearing aid for age-related hearing problems maintain better brain function over time than those who do not.
The study is based on important research conducted in recent years in which hearing loss is associated with an increased risk of suffering from dementia.
The specific effects of hearing loss on brain functions have not yet been clarified. However, it has been suggested that people who have impaired hearing, the brain has to make a greater effort to interpret the auditory cues, possibly at the expense of other cognitive functions. In addition, other studies have observed structural changes in the brains of people with hearing impairments which could lead to various cognitive disorders.
The difficulty in communication associated with the decrease in auditory functions often leads to significant social isolation, which in turn has been related to the development of various health problems such as cardiovascular diseases and Alzheimer's disease.
This research recently published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society and reviewed in The Washington Post, suggests that using a hearing aid can mitigate the risk of cognitive impairment. During the study, the researchers analyzed the insurance claims of 114,862 older adults diagnosed with hearing loss. The follow-up lasted three years and the study population was classified into two groups, those who used hearing aids and those who did not. At the end of the trial, they evidenced that the hearing aid group had a lower incidence of dementia, depression or a fall-related injury.
These findings provide evidence that supports the early use of hearing aids to help preserve brain functions and reduce the risk of dementia. Therefore, people with hearing impairments should be encouraged to use hearing aids that fit their needs as this will improve their hearing and could also help keep their brain healthy.
- University of Exeter. (2019, July 15). Wearing hearing aid may help protect brain in later life. ScienceDaily.
- Deal JA et al (2016) Hearing impairment andincident dementia and cognitive decline in olderadults: the health ABC study. J Gerontol A Biol SciMedSci 72(5):703–709.
- Lin FR et al (2011) Hearing loss and incident dementia. ArchNeurol 68(2):214.
- Uchida Y et al (2018) Age-related hearing loss andcognitive decline—The potential mechanismslinking the two. Auris Nasus Larynx.