It can be easy to think that hearing loss is no big deal and just a minor annoyance. But did you know that untreated hearing loss can increase your risk for a whole host of mental, physical and emotional health conditions, including cognitive decline?
Fortunately, there’s a proven way to delay the development of cognitive decline in people with hearing loss—have them wear hearing aids.
What the Study Found
A study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society supports existing evidence that wearing hearing aids can help slow cognitive decline in elderly patients. 1 There are generally two schools of thought when it comes to the relationship between hearing and cognition:
- The common cause hypothesis states that hearing loss and cognitive decline both involve age-related problems, such as tissue degeneration of the central nervous system.
- The cascade hypothesis theorizes that untreated hearing loss results in inadequate brain stimulation over time, leading to cognitive decline.
The study referenced above involved 2,040 hearing aid users who self-reported symptoms over 18 years. Results showed that while episodic memory did decline with age for most users, the rate of cognitive decline was slower for patients who used hearing devices. These results were adjusted by researchers to account for overall health, socioeconomic status and other demographic characteristics.
The results of this study support the cascade hypothesis; researchers state that hearing aids provide individuals with improved auditory input, which delays cognitive decline “by preventing the adverse effects of auditory deprivation or facilitating lower levels of depression symptoms, greater social engagement and higher self-efficacy.”
The key takeaways of the study include the following:
- While hearing aids do not prevent cognitive decline, mounting evidence suggests they can slow it down.
- Patients who wear hearing aids are less likely to be depressed and more likely to be socially engaged and self-confident in their communication abilities. Social engagement and physical activity help stave off cognitive decline and dementia.
- Hearing aids fitted by an expert audiologist should be recommended for patients even in the early stages of hearing loss.
The bottom line? Treating hearing loss can help protect an individual’s cognitive abilities, allowing them to enjoy a better quality of life today and in the future. If you’re concerned you or someone you care about may have a hearing loss, call Precision Hearing at 352-765-8008 today to schedule an appointment.
1 Maharani, A., Dawes, P., et al. (2018). Longitudinal relationship between hearing aid use and cognitive function in older Americans. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29637544/