Hearing Aids Mitigate Cognitive Decline in Older People

Dr. Li-Korotky
Latest posts by Dr. Li-Korotky (see all)

Have you ever wondered if there’s a link between hearing loss and cognitive decline? Those with hearing loss often suffer more rapid cognitive decline, and struggle to focus on tasks or remember details. Some small cognitive declines are a normal part of aging, as cells in the brain are damaged over the course of a long life. We’ve all had moments of searching for the house keys or wondering if we forgot to turn off the phone. While some forgetfulness is normal, rapid cognitive decline isn’t. One recent study found that treating hearing loss with hearing aids can mitigate this cognitive decline in older adults.

Hearing Loss and Cognitive Decline

Hearing loss doesn’t just affect your ears. When you’re not hearing the sounds around you, your brain suffers too. Seniors with hearing loss often face much faster rates of cognitive decline, and this starts far earlier than in hearing peers. It starts with increased listening fatigue, as your brain works overtime trying to make sense of the sounds in your environment. Even though you’re not hearing clearly, your brain tries to give you a complete picture, and fill in any gaps in speech so you’ll understand what’s been said. Despite best efforts, your brain can’t make up for your hearing loss, and you struggle to follow conversations. This added strain places a lot of stress on your brain, and at the end of each day you feel completely exhausted.

Hearing Loss and Gray Matter

Not only will living with untreated hearing loss put a strain on the brain, those with hearing loss even have less brain cells than people with normal hearing. A study by Jonathan Peelle found that older adults with hearing loss have less gray matter in auditory areas, and have less neural activity when listening to sounds. This gray matter is responsible for sensory perception, such as vision and hearing, and is also involved in other tasks like muscle control, memory, emotions, and decision making. With less gray matter in the brain, many of these processes will suffer. Living with untreated hearing loss affects the cells in your brain, and this leads to even more cognitive decline.

Hearing Aids Can Mitigate Cognitive Decline

One study by Asri Maharani, PhD, analyzed the link between hearing aids and cognitive decline. They looked at the results of memory tests of over 2,000 older adults who took cognitive tests every two years for 18 years. This study found that wearing hearing aids to treat hearing loss mitigated cognitive decline! Once the seniors in the study started wearing hearing aids, their rates of cognitive decline were much slower than before, and researchers suggest that treating hearing loss early will slow cognitive decline, and even delay or prevent the onset of dementia.

Do Hearing Aids Reverse Cognitive Decline?

Hearing aids can help you hear clearly, follow conversations with ease, and enjoy spending quality time with friends and loved ones. However, hearing aids can’t restore cells in your brain, or replace gray matter that’s been lost. Treating hearing loss with a quality pair of hearing aids will slow the cognitive decline you may be experiencing, and help your brain make sense of the sounds around you. The best thing you can do to protect your brain is to get hearing aids the moment you notice any changes to your hearing health, and while hearing aids can’t reverse cognitive decline, they will improve your quality of life, may delay the onset of dementia, and will keep your brain active and healthy for years to come.

The Benefits of Treating Hearing Loss

If you’ve noticed any changes to your hearing abilities, such as struggling to hear the TV, having difficulty following conversations, or having a hard time localizing sounds, don’t delay. Do the right thing for your brain and treat your hearing loss. Not only will you be helping your brain, you’ll enjoy all the benefits of better hearing, like enjoying coffee with friends, playing with the grandchildren in the backyard, and sharing special moments with your spouse. Early treatment will keep you socially engaged, ward off isolation and feelings of loneliness and depression, and even reduce your overall fatigue. Find the right hearing aids for you, and be amazed at all the sounds you can hear.

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