The link between hearing loss and cognitive decline has been studied for years, and it is clear that hearing loss is an important factor in the development of dementia. However, it is possible that the reverse is also true—if you experience hearing loss, wearing hearing aids to combat your hearing loss can actually decelerate cognitive decline.
The French study that looked into the link between hearing aids and better brain health concluded in 2015. It involved several thousand participants and was conducted over the course of 25 years, in order to truly investigate the long-term benefits and results of wearing a hearing aid. Each participant was 65 years or older, so the study focused more on those with age-related hearing loss. Each participant also lived at home, rather than in an institutional environment.
The authors of the study concluded that participants with self-reported hearing loss who did not wear hearing aids had a marked decrease in cognitive function, as compared to controls (participants without hearing loss). On the other hand, participants who did wear hearing aids had no difference in cognitive decline from the controls.
Hearing Aids—Helping Beyond the Ears
So how do hearing aids help to slow cognitive decline and promote brain health? To explore that, it’s important to look at how hearing loss can contribute to cognitive impairment. One might assume that hearing loss leads to lack of communication, which leads to less brain activity—people with hearing loss aren’t staying as ‘sharp’ as those without hearing loss. However, this is somewhat of a myth. The study’s authors noted that after adjusting for several factors, included depressive symptoms, social networks, and dependency, the differences in cognitive decline nearly vanished between those who use hearing aids and those who do not.
These fascinating findings indicate that hearing aids are not a direct factor in better brain health, but rather the use of hearing aids staves off factors like depression and isolation, which in turn can directly encourage cognitive decline. Hearing aids help people with hearing loss stay connected with their social circles and allows them to continue to effectively communicate. Wearing hearing aids allows one to be engaged in their community, which staves off cognitive issues.
The authors of the study suggested that along with hearing aids, older adults with hearing loss should consider auditory rehabilitation programs. Programs that promote and practice listening and communication skills can encourage better brain health in people with hearing loss.
Along with many hobbies and activities that older adults can do to keep their brain active and healthy, using hearing aids is an important part of protecting cognitive health. As reflected in the study above, wearing hearing aids allows people with hearing loss to stay connected in their communities and can stymie the isolation and depression that lead to cognitive decline. If you suffer from hearing loss and are not already wearing hearing aids, check out our models today!