Age-related hearing loss is associated with increased risk of cognitive decline and dementia, according to a growing body of research. For example, an analysis of 40 studies from 12 countries linked hearing loss to a modestly increased risk of cognitive impairment and dementia and to declines in all aspects of cognition.
None of the studies in this analysis assessed whether hearing aids help protect cognition. However, the researchers, who published their findings in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery, cited other research indicating that the hearing aids may have such benefits in older people who are still cognitively intact, though not in those who already have dementia.
Results from a large study published earlier this year in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society provides additional evidence that hearing aids may slow cognitive decline in people who are hearing-impaired.
The new study followed 2,040 people (ages 50 and older) who started using hearing aids over an 18-year period. Cognitive testing showed that after participants began using the aids, their memory scores declined more slowly than before using them. The researchers controlled for socioeconomic variables and risk factors for cognitive impairment. “Public health efforts to increase access to quality hearing health care might delay the onset of cognitive impairment and prove a successful preventive intervention to reduce the impending dementia epidemic,” the study concluded.