One common misconception about hearing loss is that it only affects the ears, but this is far from true. Because the ears and brain work together to help you hear, both are affected when it comes to hearing loss. Below we explore the link between hearing loss and cognitive decline as well as discuss how hearing aids can promote healthy brain function.
Hearing Loss & Cognitive Decline
Multiple studies from Johns Hopkins have confirmed the link between hearing loss and cognitive decline.
A study from 2011 evaluated the hearing and cognitive abilities of 639 participants. Researchers found that:
- People with mild hearing loss had double the risk of developing dementia
- People with moderate hearing loss had triple the risk of developing dementia
- People with severe hearing loss had five times the risk of developing dementia
While the study did not uncover exactly why this link exists, the researchers hypothesize that it’s because the strain of understanding sounds that are hard to hear can overwhelm the brain. In addition, hearing loss often leads to social isolation, a well-known risk factor for dementia.
Another study from 2013 found that for people with hearing loss, their cognitive abilities decline 30-40% faster than those with normal hearing, resulting in significant impairment 3.2 years sooner.
Hearing Aids Can Help
For this study, six participants between ages 54 and 64 who had sensorineural hearing loss were fitted with hearing aids. They used the hearing aids eight hours a day for a period of six months. Cognitive tests were administered before the hearing aid fitting, during treatment after the six-month period.
All of the participants showed significant improvement on their cognitive tests, especially after two to four weeks of hearing aid usage. Several patients returned to baseline after they stopped wearing their hearing aids.
The researchers concluded that hearing aid use may improve cognitive performance by improving listening and decreasing cognitive load.
In addition to exercising the brain with books from Vero Beach Book Center, wearing hearing aids can help improve cognition for those with hearing loss.
For more information or to schedule an appointment with a hearing expert, call Aaron’s Hearing Aid & Audiology Center today.