Brain Hearing Part 2

In my last blog I started discussing brain hearing. Today, I would like to introduce some research that shows that wearing of hearing aids reduces risk of cognitive decline associated with hearing loss.

Why Hearing Loss Can be Mentally Draining

Just to recap, it’s your brain that hears, not your ears. The sounds your ears receive are sent to your brain where they are translated into meaning. When hearing is compromised, such as with hearing loss, the sound signal that goes to the brain is full of gaps and it takes more effort to fill in the blanks. This is why hearing loss can be so tiring and can drain the mental energy people need for everyday activities. People may respond by withdrawing socially because it’s just too exhausting to try to keep up. Social isolation and the resulting depression and health issues have long been recognized as increased risk factors for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Hearing loss is the most common chronic health condition affecting older adults.

Hearing Loss Can Accelerate Mental Decline

The vast majority of scientists in the area of cognition and aging have agreed that cognitive decline is likely related to the lack of social interaction that older adults have because of their hearing loss. The assumption has been that if people use hearing aids and thus become socially active again or are able to maintain an appropriate level of social activity then they would decrease their risk of a more rapid decline in cognitive skills. There is a new study that appears to corroborate those assumptions. A just-published study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society is the first to show that wearing hearing aids reduces cognitive decline associated with hearing loss. The study, “Self-Reported Hearing Loss: Hearing Aids and Cognitive Decline in Elderly Adults: A 25-year Study”, followed 3,670 adults, age 65 and older over a 25-year period. Professor Hélène Amieva, a leading researcher in the Neuropsychology and Epidemiology of Aging at the University of Bordeaux, France, headed up the study which was part of the Personnes Agèes QUID cohort (PAQUID), a cohort specifically designed to study brain aging. Researchers compared the trajectory of cognitive decline among older adults who were using hearing aids and those who were not. The study found no difference in the rate of cognitive decline between a control group of people with no reported hearing loss and people with hearing loss who used hearing aids. By contrast, hearing loss was significantly associated with lower baseline scores on the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE), a well-recognized test of cognitive function, during the 25-year follow-up period, independent of age, sex and education. The early findings of the study were shared by Professor Amieva at a professional conference sponsored by Oticon, Inc., attended by more than 300 hearing care professionals. “The study indicates that people with hearing loss who wear hearing aids have the same risk for age-related cognitive decline as people without hearing loss,” says Thomas Behrens, MSc, Head of Audiology and Centre for Applied Audiology Research, Oticon A/S. “But cognitive decline is accelerated for the people who have hearing loss and don’t use hearing aids.

The Evidence is Clear…Call Us Today!

With this study, we are seeing for the first time evidence that hearing aids are a prevention against accelerated cognitive decline in later years. That’s a powerful motivator for the more than 75% of people with hearing loss who could benefit from hearing aids but are reluctant to address their hearing health.”

Get in touch with K & H Audiology to get tested and fitted for hearing aids today.

Karen Kahansky

About Karen Kahansky

Karen Kahansky founded K & H Audiology in North York, Ontario in 1986. She began her hearing health career in a private practice treating people with hearing conditions. Karen then worked in the hearing aid industry where she gained an intimate knowledge of hearing aid technology. It was during this time that Karen learned how analog hearing aids work and honed her skills in fine-tune digital hearing aids. As a result, Karen is one of the few audiologists in Canada who is able to customize hearing aids to meet a patient’s specific condition and preferences.