Hearing loss can affect more than just your ability to hear. When left untreated, it has been linked to a number of issues that affect your quality of life, including feelings of loneliness, anxiety, depression, increased risk of falls and dementia.
Even with these negative associations, only about 20% of people seek treatment for their hearing loss. But what if we focused on the benefits instead of the downsides? New research suggests that just like doing a daily crossword puzzle, enrolling in a class at the University of Utah and treating your hearing loss with hearing aids can protect your ability to think and may even help prevent the onset of cognitive decline.
The Relationship Between Cognitive Decline and Hearing Loss
According to 2011 research conducted by Johns Hopkins and National Institute of Aging, seniors with hearing loss are significantly more likely to develop dementia than those without this condition. While unsure of the exact reasons these two conditions are linked, researchers suspect it may be due to a combination of the brain being overworked when you’re struggling to hear and social isolation.
The researchers examined the data from 639 people who had their hearing and cognitive abilities tested between 1990 and 1994. The participants were then tested every one to two years until 2008. They found that the risk of developing dementia was:
- Twofold for those with mild hearing loss.
- Threefold for those with moderate hearing loss.
- Fivefold for those with severe hearing loss.
The Benefit Hearing Aids Have on Cognition
A 2020 study looked at the effect hearing aid use had on cognition in older adults; specifically, the researchers were looking to see if using these devices could delay or improve cognitive function.
A total of 99 adults between the ages of 60-84 years old with hearing loss were enrolled in the study; none of the participants were diagnosed with a cognitive impairment before starting the study. Over 18 months, they completed a series of assessments measuring their hearing, cognitive function, speech perception, quality of life, physical activity, loneliness, isolation, mood and mental health.
The participants who used hearing aids reported improvement in their overall quality of life and speech perception, and almost all (97.3%) saw a clinically significant improvement in their executive function. Improvements in working memory, visual attention and visual learning were seen specifically in female participants.
While this study was small, the study authors reported, “Relative stability and clinically and statistically significant improvement in cognition were seen in this participant group after 18 months of hearing aid use, suggesting that treatment of hearing loss with hearing aids may delay cognitive decline.” They also reported that follow-up studies are necessary to learn more.
To learn more about the benefits of hearing aids or to schedule an appointment with a hearing aid expert, contact Timpanogos Hearing & Balance today.