Wearing hearing aids might dramatically slow the rate of cognitive decline in people with untreated mild to moderate hearing loss and risk factors for dementia, according to a recent study.
Such study participants who wore hearing aids saw a 48% reduction in cognitive decline over three years compared with those who did not use hearing aids, according to results reported at the 2023 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Amsterdam.
Some of the factors that put these participants at higher risk for dementia include:
- Reduced cognitive performance
- Lower educational attainment
- Smaller household income
- Higher rates of illnesses such as hypertension and diabetes
On the other hand, the use of hearing aids appeared to have no impact on the rate of cognitive decline in people who did not have risk factors for dementia.
The researchers speculate that intervening in hearing loss might slow declines in thinking and memory in one of two ways:
- By making listening easier for the brain
- By helping people remain more active, both socially and physically
Participants who used hearing aids also had improved communication abilities and social functioning, and reported less loneliness.
In a summary of the researchers’ findings, co-author Dr. Frank Lin of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and Bloomberg School of Public Health says:
“Hearing loss is very treatable in later life, which makes it an important public health target to reduce risk of cognitive decline and dementia, along with other dementia risk factors such as less education in early life, high blood pressure, social isolation and physical inactivity.”
The researchers urged all older adults to have their hearing checked regularly and to have hearing issues treated.
The study is just the latest to find that using hearing aids might help people stave off dementia. Research published earlier this year found that older adults with hearing loss who use hearing aids are 19% less likely to experience cognitive decline than those who do not treat hearing problems.