Hearing and Cognition: Two New Must-Read Articles Cut Through the Clutter

January 25, 2023

By Brian Taylor, AuD, Editor-at-Large

Brian Taylor, AuD

As most clinicians know, there is a rich vein of research examining the relationship between cognitive function, hearing loss and the impact hearing aid use might have on it. Within just the past two months, several studies (many of them linked below) have provided us with conflicting findings and noteworthy insights on how cognitive decline and dementia might be linked to hearing loss and hearing aid use. 

Given that evidence-based practice is the gold standard for hearing care in the United States, treatment recommendations grounded in peer-reviewed research evidence are necessary for professional practice in today’s hypercompetitive hearing healthcare market. The challenge, of course, for busy clinicians is that you must have the time and expertise to read, interpret and implement these findings into the clinical decision-making process. Without a proper grounding in statistics, like knowing the difference between an odds ratio and a hazard ratio, it is easy to fall sway to the puffery of marketing claims, often generated with extreme speed by commercial interests after the publication of these notable articles. 

To help us cut through the clutter of commercial hype, and to minimize the chances that recent research findings are not misconstrued or mis-applied to patient care, look to the Great White North for some scientific grounding. On January 18, emeritus professor, Kathy Pichora-Fuller of the University of Toronto – Mississauga published an outstanding review article in Canadian Audiologist that clinicians can use to better understand and apply the most recent findings on hearing loss, hearing aid use, and dementia. 

Another recent article, coming from The City So Nice They Named It Twice, and one that warrants serious attention was recently posted at Hearing Review. Authored by another esteemed professor, Barbara Weinstein, this article examines some of the essential considerations of screening for cognitive decline and dementia in the hearing clinic. 

Rather than summarize the articles, let me end by saying, click on the two links above, print the articles, sit down with your favorite beverage, and spend some quality time reading and reflecting on these two critically important review articles.  Your patients, especially those looking for some trusted advice and guidance, will appreciate it.

A sampling of recent articles (open access articles are linked)

  1. Huang, A. R., Jiang, K., Lin, F. R., Deal, J. A., & Reed, N. S. (2023). Hearing Loss and Dementia Prevalence in Older Adults in the US. JAMA329(2), 171–173.

  2. Livingston, G., Huntley, J., Sommerlad, A., Ames, D., Ballard, C., Banerjee, S., Brayne, C., Burns, A., Cohen-Mansfield, J., Cooper, C., Costafreda, S. G., Dias, A., Fox, N., Gitlin, L. N., Howard, R., Kales, H. C., Kivimäki, M., Larson, E. B., Ogunniyi, A., Orgeta, V., … Mukadam, N. (2020). Dementia prevention, intervention, and care: 2020 report of the Lancet Commission. Lancet (London, England)396(10248), 413–446.

  3. Jiang, K., Armstrong, N. M., Agrawal, Y., Gross, A. L., Schrack, J. A., Lin, F. R., Ferrucci, L., Resnick, S. M., Deal, J. A., & Powell, D. S. (2022). Associations of audiometric hearing and speech-in-noise performance with cognitive decline among older adults: The Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging (BLSA). Frontiers in neurology13, 1029851.

  4. Marinelli, J. P., Lohse, C. M., Fussell, W. L., Petersen, R. C., Reed, N. S., Machulda, M. M., Vassilaki, M., & Carlson, M. L. (2022). Association between hearing loss and development of dementia using formal behavioural audiometric testing within the Mayo Clinic Study of Aging (MCSA): a prospective population-based study. The lancet. Healthy longevity3(12), e817–e824.

  5. Sanders, M. E., Kant, E., Smit, A. L., & Stegeman, I. (2021). The effect of hearing aids on cognitive function: A systematic review. PloS one16(12), e0261207.

  6. Yeo, B. S. Y., Song, H. J. J. M. D., Toh, E. M. S., Ng, L. S., Ho, C. S. H., Ho, R., Merchant, R. A., Tan, B. K. J., & Loh, W. S. (2022). Association of Hearing Aids and Cochlear Implants With Cognitive Decline and Dementia: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. JAMA neurology, 10.1001/jamaneurol.2022.4427. Advance online publication


About the Author

Brian Taylor, AuD, is the senior director of audiology for Signia. He is also the editor of Audiology Practices, a quarterly journal of the Academy of Doctors of Audiology, editor-at-large for Hearing Health and Technology Matters and adjunct instructor at the University of Wisconsin. 

*feature image courtesy of Cambridge in Color

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