You have all heard the popular expression “use it or lose it”. This applies to many things in our life, but did you know that it also applies to untreated hearing loss and dementia. A lot of research has been done over the past few years on this subject.
Over the years, I’ve seen many people who don’t want to admit that they have hearing loss and just ignore it. After all, hearing loss is just a sign of aging, right? Not true!
Studies on Hearing Loss and Dementia
A study done by Johns Hopkins in 2013 found that seniors with untreated hearing loss are significantly more likely to develop dementia and Alzheimer’s disease over time than people with normal hearing.
Many people with hearing loss must strain to hear in noisy situations such as restaurants, meetings, and places of worship. This results in their staying home and avoiding social situations. Many studies have determined that social isolation has been linked to loss of memory, language, thinking and judgement.
And, of course, straining to hear in daily life situations is stressful. It puts a load on the cognitive function of the brain, which negatively affects memory and thinking, leading to cognitive decline.
Another well-known study by Dr. Lin and his colleagues in 2013, found that with older adults, the more severe the hearing loss, the greater the likelihood of developing a cognitive disorder and declining mental function. They even found that people with mild hearing loss had a greater chance of having cognitive failures.
The Case for Hearing Aids
So, what does that mean for older people like us who fall into this category and what can we do to slow the progression of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease?
The answer is simple: Hearing Aids!
When you wear hearing aids, you no longer need to strain to hear everyday sounds and you can again understand conversations, both in quiet and noisy situations. You can enjoy life with your friends and family and be more active.
Hearing Aid Wearers vs Untreated Hearing Loss
Another study by Amieva et al. studied a large group of hearing aid wearers compared to those with hearing loss who did not wear them. They also studied normal hearing people in the same peer group.
They found that wearing hearing aids improves cognition. The people studied in this group experienced less decline in mental function than those without hearing aids. They nearly matched those in the group who had normal hearing.
Other studies have found the same results, hearing aids help slow the progression of dementia and Alzheimer’s. This new research is amazing and gives us hope for a better hearing life! Don’t wait until your hearing and cognitive function decline.
Hearing aids can give you a new lease on life. You can enjoy gatherings, have fun, exercise again and go to meetings and restaurants as you did before. And of course, your brain will thank you!
By: Marianne Cramer, Head of Audiology at Audicus, updated in 2021
Marianne Cramer is the Head Audiologist at Audicus. She has over 30 years of experience in the field of Audiology. Marianne received her master’s degree from the University of New Mexico and has since then worked across the US and internationally. She is currently a fellow of the American Academy of Audiology.
Johns Hopkins Medicine 2013. Hearing Loss Accelerates Brain Function Decline in Older Adults.
Amieva et al. Journal of American Geriatrics Society, April 2018. Self reported hearing loss, hearing aids, and cognitive decline in elderly adults.
Lin et al. 2013. JAMA Internal Med. Hearing loss and cognitive decline in older adults.