A new study out of the UK has found that people who wear a hearing aid for age-related hearing problems were able to maintain better brain function over time, compared to those who do not.
The latest study helps build upon important research in recent years pulled together by the Lancet Commission on Dementia Prevention, Intervention and Care, through which hearing loss emerged as an important risk factor for dementia. This research suggests that wearing a hearing aid may mitigate that risk.
Could Treating Hearing Loss with Hearing Aids Help Reduce Dementia Risk?
The research was conducted by the University of Exeter and King’s College London and is being presented this week at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) being held in Los Angeles, California. In the PROTECT online study of 25,000 people aged 50 or over.
Both groups undertook annual cognitive tests over two years. After that time, the group who wore hearing aids performed better in measures assessing working memory and aspects of attention than those who did not. On one attention measure, people who wore hearing aids showed faster reaction times – in everyday terms, this is a reflection of concentration, for example, ‘straining to hear a sound’, ‘peering closely at an object of great interest’, ‘listening intently to someone speaking’.
“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. We now need more research and a clinical trial to test this and perhaps feed into policy to help keep people healthy in later life.”
–Dr Anne Corbett, University of Exeter, PROTECT lead
“We know that we could reduce dementia risk by a third if we all took action from mid life. This research is part of an essential body of work to find out what really works to keep our brains healthy,” said Professor Clive Ballard, of the University of Exeter Medical School. “This is an early finding and needs more investigation, yet it has exciting potential. The message here is that if you’re advised you need a hearing aid, find one that works for you. At the very least it will improve your hearing and it could help keep your brain sharp too.”
The poster presented at the AAIC event is entitled ‘Use of Hearing Aids in Older Adults with Hearing Loss Is Associated with Improved Cognitive Trajectory’.
Source: University of Exeter