New Study: Hearing Aids Can Reduce Risk of Dementia by Half

New Study: Hearing Aids Can Reduce Risk of Dementia by Half

In Hearing Aids, Hearing Technology by Raphael M. Cheron, MHALeave a Comment

Raphael M. Cheron, MHA
Latest posts by Raphael M. Cheron, MHA (see all)

A new study shows that hearing aids can reduce the risk of dementia by 50%. 

Dementia includes a range of medical conditions that take a toll on cognitive functions. These conditions are characterized by cognitive decline which reduces capacity to perform cognitive functions that involve memory, learning, communicating, decision making, completing tasks etc. Dementia includes Lewy Body, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, and vascular dementia. The most common type of dementia is Alzheimer’s which accounts for up to 70% of the dementia people live with today. 

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 6.2 million people in the U.S. live with  Alzheimer’s. This is expected to double, reaching 12.7 million people by 2050. There are no cures for dementia and Alzheimer’s so identifying risk factors that are modifiable is important. Research has long identified hearing loss as a risk factor for dementia and emerging research shows that treating impaired hearing with hearing aids can significantly reduce the risk of its development. 

Link Between Hearing Loss & Cognitive Decline 

Significant research has established hearing loss as a risk factor for dementia. Numerous studies show that hearing loss can increase the risk of cognitive decline. This includes the following important studies: 

1. Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, published in the Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association: researchers evaluated the cognitive and hearing capacities for 10,107 people over an 8 year period. At the onset of the study, participants did not have cognitive challenges. After 8 years of assessment, researchers found that cognitive decline was: 

  • 30% higher for people with mild hearing loss 
  • 42% higher for people with moderate hearing loss 
  • 54% higher for people with severe hearing loss 

This data shows that people with hearing loss were significantly more likely to experience cognitive decline. Additionally, these findings show that the greater the hearing loss, the higher the risk of developing cognitive decline can be. 

2. University of Colorado, published in the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America: researchers in the Department of Speech-Language and Hearing Science at the University of Colorado studied how hearing loss impacts the brain. This involved taking electroencephalographic (EEG) recordings of adults and children with hearing loss. After analyzing the results, researchers found that people who had a hearing loss also experienced: 

  • reduced activity in the portions of the brain that are responsible for speech-language comprehension
  • reorganization in the areas that process visual patterns

These findings highlight specific ways hearing loss affects the brain. Experts suggest that this reduced activity can lead to a loss of neurons and brain atrophy (these portions of the brain become smaller and ineffective). These changes can lead to cognitive decline, increasing the risk of developing conditions like dementia. 

These studies are among many that highlight a link between hearing loss and cognitive decline. Increasingly, more research focuses on interventions that can reduce the risk of dementia and this includes treating hearing loss. 

Hearing Aids Reduce Risk of Dementia 

One of the most common ways that hearing loss is treated is with hearing aids. These are electronic devices that are designed to absorb, amplogy, and process speech as well as sound. This provides the ears and brain with significant support, alleviating symptoms and increasing hearing capacity. Hearing aids offer countless benefits like strengthening hearing and communication as well as improving overall health. One way hearing aids do this is decreasing health risks including cognitive decline. 

The latest study that investigates the impact of hearing aids on brain health was recently published in Lancet, a medical journal. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Medicine conducted a randomized control study to comprehensively evaluate how hearing aids impact the brain. This included assessing more than 3,000 people – a healthy group of adults and older adults from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study, a longstanding observational study of cardiovascular health. Participants were randomly divided into two groups: a control group that received counseling in chronic disease prevention or an intervention group that received treatment from an audiologist which included hearing aids. Researchers evaluated all participants every 6 months for three years. They found that the people who were part of the at risk adults benefited from hearing aids. Hearing aids slowed the rate of cognitive decline by 48% for the adults who were at risk for developing cognitive decline 

This highlights the importance of prioritizing your hearing health. You can do this by contacting us to schedule an appointment for a hearing evaluation.

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