Wearing Hearing Aids May Prevent Dementia

Two elderly women on a walk in the forest

There are plenty of reasons to wear your hearing aids, but the University of Exeter, all the way over in England, have solidified another.

If you think about hearing loss, you might be able to see how it would be mentally taxing. If you’ve ever been at a bar or noisy restaurant, straining to hear people all night can become physically tiring. If someone is experiencing hearing loss, they would be straining like this constantly.

This brain strain can start to wear down someone’s mental state, leading to increased risk of dementia. However, if the individual with hearing loss undergoes the appropriate treatment and wears a hearing aid, their risk of dementia or other memory loss issues plummets.

In an online study of over 25,000 people over the age of 50, the University of Exeter wanted to investigate any connection between hearing loss – as well as the way each person addressed their hearing loss – and the mental condition of each subject.

More specifically, the researchers created two groups of individuals with hearing loss. One group properly addressed their hearing loss with hearing aids, while the other simply lived with their hearing loss like it was an unavoidable fact of life.

Hearing loss dementia

These groups underwent cognitive tests annually for two years. In these tests, it was found that the group without proper hearing healthcare attention struggled significantly more in tests connected to memory, concentration, and attention. People with hearing aids, however, showed greatly superior reaction times.

University of Exeter’s Dr Anne Corbett stated: “Previous research has shown that hearing loss is linked to a loss of brain function, memory and an increased risk of dementia. Our work is one of the largest studies to look at the impact of wearing a hearing aid, and suggests that wearing a hearing aid could actually protect the brain.”

Our own resident audiologist, Doctor Lindsey Banks, had this to say regarding the new study:

“Interesting research and I’m happy to see that the link between hearing aids and dementia is being looked at closer. If healthcare professionals can educate the public about this link then there is the potential to improve adoption rates of hearing aid use, encourage people to get started wearing hearing aids sooner, and potentially reduce the negative stigma associated with hearing aids. 

“While some people with hearing loss feel they can “get by” without wearing hearing aids, this link between hearing aids and brain health may change their minds in more ways than one.”

As much as this study should encourage those with hearing loss to seek the appropriate treatment, this is actually not a groundbreaking revolution in the world of audiology. While it’s nice to have additional substantiated studies on the topic, the connection between hearing loss and dementia has been fairly common knowledge in the world of audiology for quite a while.

Another study conducted in 2020 has recently found that untreated hearing loss is the largest modifiable risk factor in preventing dementia, further emphasising the importance of healthy ears.

So what can be done about this?

While this study hopefully encourages people with hearing loss to wear their hearing aids, ideally it would also prompt people to take preventative measures to protect their hearing before hearing loss starts to take hold.

If you’re at all concerned about the state of your hearing, and the possible side effects that might crop up, then you should book a visit to a nearby hearing healthcare professional. If you use our form, you’ll be able to book a free consultation.

Written by:

Duncan is an Australian-born American-raised creative writer with a passion for healthy ears. He continues to build upon his audiology qualifications with research and various courses.

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