The Grapevine

Hearing Aids Effects May Help Reduce Dementia Risk

Hearing aids have been found offering more health benefits than previously known. Researchers said the device could help reduce the risk of developing dementia and other effects of aging.

The new study, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, analyzed data from 114,862 adults, 66 or older, with hearing loss from 2008 to 2016. Researchers said the findings add to the growing evidence of a link between hearing loss and memory issues.

“Cognitive decline is much higher among people with hearing loss,” Elham Mahmoudi, study author and an assistant professor in the department of family medicine at the University of Michigan, said. 

Researchers examined the participants’ insurance claims and looked into the number of hearing loss, prescribed hearing aid and history of dementia, depression and ­fall-related injury. The team then divided patients into groups, with one receiving hearing aids and the other living without the device. 

They found that people had lower rates of dementia as well as depression and falls three years after getting their hearing aids. The latest findings support a 2018 review of 36 studies that suggested age-related hearing loss could contribute to the development of the disease. 

How Hearing Aids Help Avoid Dementia 

Despite having multiple research showing the link between memory and hearing, researchers noted they have yet to determine how the device directly affects the development of dementia. One expert believes it may be because of the brain’s response to lost hearing. 

A damaged hearing potentially forces the brain to expend more effort to decode sound. This could then lead to reduced functions in other areas, such as memory, according to Jennifer Deal, an assistant scientist in epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, who wasn’t involved in the new study.

“If someone is considering a hearing aid, we do know that it should help improve the quality of life, help with communication,” Deal said. “We do know there are benefits, we just don’t know if cognition is one of them.”

Brain imaging studies also suggested that hearing loss causes changes in the physical structure of the brain, which affects memory, The Washington Post reported Tuesday

Social isolation may also play a role in dementia risk. When people struggle hearing, they also find it harder to communicate.

Feeling of isolation has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease, a common form of dementia.

hearing aid A senior citizen wearing a behind-the-ear hearing aid. rawpixel/Wikimedia Commons

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