NEW YORK — According to a newly published study in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, researchers at Columbia University found that older adults who use hearing aids performed significantly better on cognitive tests than those who did not–despite having poorer hearing than those who did not wear hearing aids.
The study adds further evidence to a growing body of recent research that has found possible links between cognition and hearing loss, and the potential for improved cognitive benefit from using hearing aids.
According to a news release, Dr. Anil Lalwani, Professor of Otolaryngology/Head and Neck Surgery at Columbia, and one of the researchers in the study, was quoted:
“We know that hearing aids can keep older adults with hearing loss more socially engaged by providing an important bridge to the outside world. In this study, we wanted to determine if they could also slow the effects of aging on cognitive function.”
Out of 100 adults included in the study between the ages of 80 and 99, a total of 34 were regular hearing aid users. The participants all had hearing tests conducted, along with evaluations of cognitive function using the Mini-State Mental Examination (MMSE) and executive function using the Trail Making Test Part B (TMT-B), which does not include a verbal or auditory component like the MMSE test.
Participants who used hearing aids performed significantly better on the MMSE test than those who did not use hearing aids. Higher levels of hearing loss were correlated with lower MMSE scores, among non-users.
While hearing aid users did score better on the TMT-B test, the improvement was not found to be statistically significant.
According to the authors of the study, better performance on cognitive tests with auditory stimuli (MMSE), but not visual stimuli (TMT-B), suggests that hearing loss is associated with “sensory-specific” cognitive decline, rather than global cognitive impairment. Due to the high prevalence of hearing loss among adults over 80 years of age, hearing aids should therefore be “strongly recommended to minimize cognitive impairment in the elderly”.
*title image courtesy foxnews