Have you heard the news? While untreated hearing loss has been linked to cognitive decline, using hearing aids could help reduce your risk. Several studies have uncovered this potential connection, and recent research has further confirmed the possible link.
If you have been diagnosed with hearing loss but haven’t yet started using hearing aids, these findings could be just the incentive you need!
What is cognitive decline?
Cognitive decline is top of mind for many these days as older adults worry about remaining independent, and family and friends worry about the financial and emotional cost of caregiving down the road. Cognitive decline is a broad term that can cover Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) through more serious conditions like dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
The cost is high, both emotionally and financially. Recent data puts the cost of Alzheimer’s alone in 2016 was over $268 million. With the most recent research pointing to a promising link between hearing aid use and reduced risk of cognitive decline, experts are hopeful that the number of cognitive decline cases can be reduced.
The hearing loss and cognitive decline link
Over the last decade, several studies have concluded that untreated hearing loss contributes to cognitive decline. Whether that is due to an underlying cause that results in both hearing loss and cognitive decline, the increased demands that hearing loss places on the brain or the physical, mental and emotional changes caused by hearing loss that trigger cognitive decline, is yet to be determined conclusively. Yet, the most recent study points again to the positive impact hearing aid use can have.
In the small short-term study, one group of individuals with hearing loss was instructed to wear hearing aids for a minimum of eight hours per day. The other control group did not wear hearing aids. Participants were tested at regular intervals between start and end at six months for both hearing ability and cognition (working memory, speed of processing and attention/inhibition). The findings, published in The Hearing Journal, showed that both hearing ability and working memory improved in the group using hearing aids while there were no changes in the group without hearing aids.
The results further support that wearing hearing aids is a smart decision for those with hearing loss who want to maintain healthy brain function.
This small study is just one of many research projects exploring the link between hearing aids and cognitive decline. Others include the SENSE-Cog Project, a European research project led by the University of Manchester, and this recent study.
Cognitive decline can rob us of our independence and cost our families and us in more ways than one.
If you believe you have hearing loss, it may be time to throw the excuses out the window, schedule a hearing evaluation and start using hearing aids. It could be one of the best decisions you make to protect your brain.