In a new study, researchers found that wearing hearing aids may delay cognitive decline in older adults and improve brain function.
The research was conducted by a team at the University of Melbourne.
Cognitive decline is linked to hearing loss, which affects about 32% of people aged 55 years, and more than 70% of people aged over 70 years.
Hearing loss has been identified as a modifiable risk factor for dementia.
In the study, the team tested the use of hearing aids in almost 100 adults aged 62-82 years with hearing loss.
Participants were assessed before and 18 months after having hearing aids fitted on their hearing, cognitive function, speech perception, quality of life, physical activity, loneliness, mood, and medical health.
After 18 months of hearing aid use, the researchers found speech perception, self-reported listening disability, and quality of life had significantly improved for participants.
Most notably, 97.3 percent of participants in this study showed either clinically significant improvement or stability in executive function—their mental ability to plan, organize information and initiate tasks.
Women, in particular, showed big improvements in working memory—used for reasoning and decision-making—as well as most other cognitive functions assessed.
The study also found more frequent use of hearing aids was associated with greater improvements in cognitive function, and women were much more diligent at wearing the devices than men.
The team says the improvement in cognitive function is something that is not usually seen in older adults.
Although there are successful treatments for hearing loss, there is currently no successful treatment for cognitive decline or dementia.
This research is a positive step in investigating the treatment of hearing aids to delay cognitive decline.
The lead author of the study is the University of Melbourne Associate Professor Julia Sarant.
This research is published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine.
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