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Hearing Aids May Be Helpful in Slowing Down Cognitive Decline (Study)

2015 was an exciting time for sciences. Many medical breakthroughs took place, and we believe one such breakthrough will have a dramatic impact on the hearing health community, potentially blowing our world wide open in a good way.

For years, researchers have been looking into the links between hearing health, dementia and cognitive function, but  there haven’t been any conclusive studies to show that hearing aids can reduce the rate of cognitive decline. Until now.

Good news for hearing health practitioners and our patients has surfaced in the form of a French study published online in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society . The study has found that hearing aids, when used properly and consistently, can slow down the rate in which older adults who suffer from hearing loss experience cognitive decline.

In other words, with hearing aids, adults with hearing loss were able to slow down their cognitive decline, putting it more or less on par with the rate of cognitive decline experienced by adults with documented normal hearing.

The study, which outstandingly took place over the course of 25 years, followed the hearing health of approximately 3,700 participants over the age of 65. Nearly 1,300 people in the study had some form of hearing loss, while the rest of the participants had healthy hearing. Each person was required to fill out a questionnaire and undergo psychological testing every 2-3 years, which involved researchers analyzing their cognitive skills using questions that are typically asked of people who have early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

As years passed, most of the participants experienced some level of cognitive decline—as we all do—yet the people with moderate-to-severe hearing loss who never used hearing aids experienced cognitive decline at a faster rate, while the cognitive rates of those who had hearing loss but used hearing aids were on par with those who had normal hearing. Amazing!

Helene Amieva, the study’s lead author with the University of Bordeaux in France, told Reuters:

“With a large sample size and 25 years of follow-up of participants, this study clearly confirms that hearing loss is associated with cognitive decline in older adults. Using hearing aids attenuates cognitive decline in elders presenting with hearing loss.”

Researchers believe the cause of the slowdown of cognitive decline has to due with the proven psychological effects of wearing hearing aids – the devices themselves cannot repair the brain. So, while hearing aids can’t be considered a magic bullet in the war against solving dementia, they do present some form of reprieve.

Further research is required to sort out how it all works. As for right now, it’s not true to say hearing aids can prevent dementia from happening, but they can help play a role in slowing down the effects it has on sufferers by boosting a person’s overall mood. The belief amongst the researchers is that a person who can hear what is going on around them, in conversations in particular, is more aware of their surroundings and are more participatory. Overall, this leads to less depression and less social isolation (this link between hearing aids and increased well-being is something we DO know conclusively). A happy brain is a healthy brain, and is one that is better able to fend off attacks from the ugly punches of dementia.

“By at least partially restoring communication abilities, hearing aids may help improve mood, increase social interactions, and enable participation in cognitively stimulating abilities and consequently could slow cognitive decline,” Helene’s team wrote.

At Beltone, we are so encouraged by studies like these that continue to spell out good things for hearing health and what the future holds. Studies like these serve as a reminder that addressing hearing loss is an important factor in maintaining a healthy mind. So, in addition to solving brain teasers, playing trivia, filling in crosswords, reading, and otherwise exercising your brain, wearing your prescribed hearing aids can help preserve your mental state and, as the study has revealed, slow down cognitive decline.

Still struggling to find a comfortable hearing aid? One you actually WANT to wear? To find a hearing aid that is right for you, check out  Beltone’s latest hearing aid models.

 

John Cariola, Au.D.
John has been working in the audiology industry since 1983 and has a true love and passion for everything the hearing health world has to offer. He grew up witnessing the British Invasion of The Beatles, The Who, The Kinks, etc. which really means he started out life with sound, really loud sound. And his passion for all sound continues today. John is currently Beltone's Director of Product Management. More About John

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