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An increasing number of research efforts are linking untreated hearing loss to thinking and memory problems, including dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease. Many of these studies indicate that hearing aids should be used as early as hearing loss symptoms can be verified, but evidence supporting hearing aids as a preventive therapy have been largely theoretical. That has changed recently, with new research just published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society by researchers at the French National Institute for Health and Medical Research in Bordeaux France. The study followed 3,670 adults, age 65 and older over a 25-year period.
The main findings of this ground-breaking research indicate that “Use of hearing aids attenuates cognitive decline in elderly people with hearing loss”. The study found that people treated with hearing aids for their hearing loss showed the same rate of cognitive decline as a control group with no prior hearing loss. As a contrast, people with untreated hearing loss scored significantly lower baseline scores on the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE), a well-established test for determining cognitive function.
The bottom line? Hearing aids appear to have a positive effect on thinking and memory functions, by restoring communication abilities and promoting social interaction, qualities that are known to reduce isolation and resulting depression.
What does this mean to an aging population? “These results argue in favor of screening and rehabilitation of hearing disorders in elderly people,” said Prof. Amieva, a leading researcher in the Neuropsychology and Epidemiology of Aging at the University of Bordeaux, France. “We now have a set of data that is sufficiently robust to assert that hearing loss induces accelerated cognitive decline in the elderly, and hearing aids can attenuate this decline.”
Dr. Li-Korotky, AuD, PhD, F-AAA , is Board Certified in Audiology, and CEO of Pacific Northwest Audiology.