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Hearing Aids Could Slow Cognitive Decline In Later Life

Jun 16, 2023

Hearing loss is a common problem that affects millions of people worldwide. It can be caused by a variety of factors, including age, noise exposure, and genetics. While hearing loss can be a frustrating and isolating experience, it can also have serious consequences for cognitive health.

Hearing Loss And Dementia

A growing body of research suggests that hearing loss can increase the risk of dementia, a type of brain disease that causes memory loss and cognitive decline. In fact, one study found that people with severe hearing loss are twice as likely to develop dementia as those with normal hearing.

The exact mechanism by which hearing loss leads to dementia is not fully understood and further research is needed to understand this issue. However, researchers believe that it may be due to a number of factors, including:

  • Social isolation: People with hearing loss may withdraw from social activities, which can lead to loneliness and depression. These conditions can contribute to cognitive decline.
  • Stress: The stress of trying to hear in noisy environments can also contribute to cognitive decline.
  • Lack of stimulation: When people have a significant hearing impairment, they may not be exposed to as much stimulation, which can also lead to cognitive decline.

Hearing aids can help to improve hearing and reduce the risk of mild cognitive impairment. In fact, a study published in JAMA Neurology found that people with hearing loss who used hearing aids for 18 months had a 19 per cent lower risk of developing dementia than those who did not use hearing aids.

If you have an age-related hearing impairment, it is important to see a doctor or audiologist to get a hearing evaluation. If you are found to have hearing loss, there are a variety of treatment options available, including hearing aids. Hearing aids can help to improve your quality of life and may even help to protect your cognitive health.

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How Hearing Aids Delay Cognitive Decline

Using a hearing aid has the potential to slow down cognitive decline in later life through several mechanisms.

Improved Sensory Input

Hearing aids enhance auditory input by amplifying sounds and improving speech clarity. By restoring hearing ability, individuals can better engage in conversations, understand verbal information, and actively participate in cognitive activities that rely on auditory input. This improved sensory input helps keep the brain actively engaged and stimulated, reducing cognitive impairment.

Reduced Cognitive Load 

Untreated hearing loss places a significant cognitive load on the brain as it struggles to process and interpret sounds. This increased cognitive effort may divert cognitive resources away from other important functions such as working memory and attention. Treating hearing impairment by wearing hearing aids, the cognitive load is reduced, allowing the brain to allocate its resources more efficiently, improve executive function and prevent cognitive decline.

Social Engagement 

Hearing loss in older adults often leads to loneliness, social isolation and reduced participation in social activities. Social withdrawal is a modifiable risk factor associated with cognitive decline. Hearing aids enable individuals to effectively communicate and engage with others, leading to increased social interactions and participation. Regular social engagement provides cognitive stimulation and may contribute to better cognitive outcomes and show significant improvements in cognitive abilities.

Brain Stimulation

Hearing aids provide continuous auditory stimulation, which helps maintain neural connections in the auditory pathways of the brain. This ongoing stimulation can support brain plasticity, the brain’s ability to adapt and reorganise itself. By keeping the auditory pathways active, hearing aids may help preserve cognitive function and slow cognitive decline.

Enhanced Quality Of Life

Hearing loss can negatively impact an individual’s quality of life, leading to frustration, stress, and reduced overall well-being. By improving hearing ability and communication, hearing aids can alleviate these negative emotional experiences. Better emotional well-being and reduced psychological distress have been linked to better cognitive function.

Get In Touch With ACE Audiology Today

While research supports the potential benefits of hearing aids in slowing cognitive decline, it is important to note that individual experiences may vary. Factors such as the severity of hearing loss, the duration of hearing aid use, and overall health can influence the outcomes.

If you find yourself getting older and have a self-reported listening disability, ACE Audiology can help. Seeking professional advice from our audiologists is essential to determine the most suitable interventions for managing your hearing loss and provide a clinically significant improvement in your life by preventing cognitive decline. Get in touch with us today to get started on your hearing aid journey.


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