With new and advanced research and technology, hearing aids have been giving those in the deaf and hard of hearing community a second chance at hearing at a healthy level in their present-day today. This is wonderful news for the 48 million Americans with hearing loss who utilize hearing aids, but according to a new study, this wonderful news may be even better. As research has linked untreated hearing loss to cognitive decline in older patients, a 2019 study by the University of Exeter has yielded promising results for those who choose to wear their hearing aids. Building on critical research by the Lancet Commission on Dementia Prevention, Intervention and Care, researchers had concluded that “people who wear a hearing aid for age-related hearing problems maintain better brain function over time than those who do not.” further compounding the importance of treatment and accessibility for patients with hearing loss.
Hearing Loss and Brain Health
For those suffering from hearing loss, research concludes that hearing is not the only ability at risk. Due to less auditory stimulation over time as hearing loss progresses in severity, cognitive decline in older patients suffering from age-related hearing loss is common. New studies performed by Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School have concluded that hearing loss is tied to a 57% higher risk of subjective cognitive decline. “Our findings,” claims study author and lead researcher Dr. Sharon Curhan, “show that hearing loss is associated with new-onset of subjective cognitive concerns which may be indicative of early-stage changes in cognition.” A 2013 study by Dr. Frank Lin reinforces Dr. Curhan’s conclusions, finding “a faster decline in brain volume in people with hearing loss than in people with normal hearing.”
Changes in memory and thinking skills due to cognitive decline are dangerous and can be early symptoms of dementia, with no current effective treatments to manage the irreversible damage. With the number of those living with dementia set to rise to 75 million worldwide by 2030, The World Health Organization (WHO) has identified dementia as a public health priority. Fortunately, early prevention is possible, with a 2017 article by the Lancet Commission on Dementia Prevention, Intervention and Care concluding that up to 35% of dementia could be prevented due to modifiable risk factors, with hearing loss accounting for the highest percent of preventable risk factors at 9%.
How Hearing Aids Are Protecting Your Future Brain
Early intervention and management of hearing loss are vital to ensuring your brain remains in tip-top shape. Keeping your brain auditorily stimulated can stave off neural degeneration, which many researchers believe is the key to preventing cognitive decline and future dementia. Hearing aids are the most effective way of maintaining normal auditory stimulation and increasing the quality of life for those with hearing loss, with studies showing cognitive decline slowing down significantly once hearing aids are used compared to patients without hearing aids. Though not entirely conclusive, all researchers believe that hearing aids can help prevent cognitive decline from getting worse and highly recommend that those suffering from hearing loss receive treatment as soon as possible.