A hearing loss and cognitive decline connection?
Hearing loss has been shown to be associated with a number of different health problems, from diabetes to cardiovascular problems. This really makes hearing loss a window into your overall health. Audiologists and other hearing health professionals have long believed that there is also a connection between hearing loss and cognitive decline. Due to a new study that was recently published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, there is now strong evidence to support this idea.
Results of a recent study
The study, “Self-Reported Hearing Loss, Hearing Aids, and Cognitive Decline in Elderly Adults: A 25-year Study,” was published in the October 2015 edition of the journal. It was found that the use of hearing aids actually reduces the risk of cognitive decline in adults with hearing loss. The trajectories of cognitive decline among an older group of adults using hearing aids and an older group of adults with hearing loss who did not use hearing aids were compared. A group of individuals who had no reported hearing loss was used as a control. The study followed 3,670 adults who were 65 years or older for a 25-year period. The participants were given a questionnaire to assess their hearing loss, and cognitive decline was measured using the Mini Mental State Examination (MMSE).
A strong connection
When comparing the control group with the group of hearing aid users, no difference was found in the rate of cognitive decline. The group with untreated hearing loss, however, had significantly lower scores and greater decline when their cognitive function was tested. This data suggests that there is a strong connection between untreated hearing loss and the rate of cognitive decline.
Diagnosis is crucial
The information this study provides is truly invaluable. No study has ever before found that those with hearing loss who use hearing aids have similar rates of cognitive decline as individuals with no hearing loss. The results show us the importance of diagnosing and treating hearing loss, as well as the consequences of ignoring hearing problems. Hearing health care providers should be sure to discuss with their patients the ways that hearing aids can provide benefit in all aspects of their heath — brain health included.