While the most obvious issue with age-related hearing loss is a difficulty with hearing, it’s not the only problem that these individuals might face. In fact, hearing loss has been linked to a higher incidence of dementia and other similar conditions. Thus, researchers have been scrambling to find ways to mitigate the effects of age-related hearing loss and the development of dementia in older populations.
What The Research Tells Us
Researchers at the University of Exeter and King’s College London recently found that hearing aid use might be an effective protective measure against the development of dementia in people with age-related hearing loss. Through their PROTECT online study, which surveyed 25,000 people over the age of 50, the research team found that people who wore hearing aids performed better in an annual cognitive test than those who didn’t.
In particular, hearing aid users did better than their non-hearing aid wearing peers on tasks that assessed an individual’s working memory and attention abilities. In many instances, those who wore hearing aids had faster reaction times and a higher ability to concentrate during a task.
If a connection between hearing loss and dementia seems a bit far-fetched, it’s nothing to scoff at. Previous research over the last decade indicates that hearing loss can cause a decrease in brain function and can negatively affect one’s memory. Researchers have also found many links between people with age-related hearing loss and those who later develop dementia, perhaps due to this decrease in cognitive function.
With the current trend of lengthening life-spans and the rise in dementia rates, research into different ways to “protect” our brains is of the utmost importance. Since hearing loss is a known risk factor for dementia, studies that look into the usefulness of different hearing loss treatments on improving cognitive function could hold the key to the long-term well-being of these patients.
The PROTECT study is one of the largest of its kind, making its results all the more important for researchers in the field. By looking at the benefits of wearing a hearing aid, the researchers in this study have found that doing so could help an individual’s brain in the long-term, thus setting the stage for dementia prevention for hundreds of thousands of people.
While this study is important, the researchers from PROTECT caution that it’s not the end-all-be-all, either. Rather, the PROTECT study is yet another body of work that builds into the growing library of literature on what can actually help to preserve brain function later in life. This study is another finding that can have some great potential, though, as we learn more about the relationship between hearing loss and dementia.
Essentially, however, the study’s message is clear: if you need a hearing aid, it’s best to wear it. Your trusted hearing healthcare provider can help you find a hearing aid or hearing treatment that’s right for you, so if you think you might have hearing loss, be sure to reach out for a consultation.