Hearing loss has been linked with an increased risk of dementia, likely due to a faster rate of brain atrophy and social isolation from being unable to take part in conversations. On the flip side, a new study finds that addressing the issue is linked with a lower dementia risk.
Researchers from the National University of Singapore conducted a meta-analysis involving more than 30 studies on the effect of hearing interventions on cognitive health. According to their findings, recently published in JAMA Neurology, hearing aids and cochlear implants helped with both long-term cognitive decline and short-term cognitive test scores.
Specifically, the use of these devices was linked with a 19% decrease in long-term cognitive decline over a period of two to 25 years, compared with patients with hearing loss who did not address the issue. At the same time, short-term cognitive test scores improved by 3% after hearing aid use began. These figures came from among more than 137,000 participants in studies included in the meta-analysis.
The team says this indicates that doctors should strongly encourage the use of hearing aids or cochlear implants in their patients with hearing loss.
Dr. Susan Mitchell, Head of Policy at Alzheimer’s Research UK, who was not involved in the study, says, “There’s increasingly clear evidence that people who lose their hearing as they get older are at increased risk of developing dementia. This study provides further compelling evidence of this link, but unanswered questions remain.
“Dementia research has made great strides in recent months, but there’s a long way to go – and interventions that can reduce people’s dementia risk must be a public health priority. People must be able to access hearing tests if they are concerned about their hearing, so suitable support, like hearing aids, can be offered at an early stage, and help maintain their brain health.”
The American Stroke Association and the American Heart Association also say addressing hearing loss may help reduce cognitive decline. To see some of their other recommendations for optimum brain health, click here.