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.
As we discussed previously, long term untreated hearing loss can have profound physical, mental, and emotional effects for seniors. But there is substantial evidence that taking steps to improve our hearing will go a long way to ensuring our physical and mental well-being as we age. We are living longer, healthier and more actively than our parents generation. We take care of ourselves, and we refuse to sit on the sidelines of life. Since we are living longer, we certainly want to age well, and our generation (the Baby Boomers) tends to “take the Bull by the horn.” But it’s important to understand that we don’t treat hearing loss just to hear with more clarity. We treat hearing loss to improve our quality of life, and the longevity of that quality! Addressing and treating hearing loss can be a long, sometimes challenging process, but most of us are up to the challenge. There are many benefits to treating our hearing loss. Here are just a few: