Untreated hearing loss has been linked to a number of factors that can affect quality of life, including reduced social engagement, feelings of loneliness, depression, anxiety, increased risk of injury/falls and even dementia. But despite this, only about one in five people who could benefit from treatment actually wears hearing aids.
If you’re one of the 80% of people ignoring your hearing loss rather than treating it, we’ve got some surprising news: Recent research shows that wearing hearing aids, like doing the daily crossword puzzle or taking a class at Penn State, can actually protect your ability to think, possibly staving off the effects of cognitive decline.
The Link Between Hearing Loss and Dementia
Research over the last decade by Johns Hopkins and others has shown a strong link between untreated hearing loss and dementia. One study published in 2011 found that, compared to those with normal hearing:
- People with mild hearing loss have double the risk of developing dementia
- People with moderate hearing loss have triple the risk of developing dementia
- People with severe hearing loss have five-times the risk of developing dementia
While researchers aren’t totally sure why these conditions are linked, the two main hypotheses are that either the two conditions share a common pathology or that hearing loss causes individuals to become socially withdrawn, a well-known risk factor for developing dementia.
How Hearing Aids Can Help
A 2020 study published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine assessed adults ages 62 to 82 before and after wearing hearing aids for 18 months. These assessments covered hearing, cognitive function, speech perception, quality of life, physical activity, loneliness, isolation, mood and medical health.
After 18 months of hearing aid usage, participants reported improvement in speech perception and overall quality of life. For 97.3% of participants, there was clinically significant improvement in executive function. Female participants, in particular, also showed improvement in working memory, visual attention and visual learning.
According to study authors, “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.”
This study was relatively small, which is why researchers suggest further study to uncover more about the benefits of using hearing aids. However, the results shown here are promising.
For more information about how hearing aids can improve your life, call Pinnacle ENT Associates today.