According to a new study by researchers at the University of Exeter and King’s college London, people with hearing loss due to aging who wear a hearing aid can lower their risk for dementia. The study was presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Los Angeles, July 2019.
PROTECT Online Study
The PROTECT online study had 25,000 participants aged 50 and older.
The study lasted over two years during which time annual cognitive tests were carried out on the two groups of seniors. One group wore hearing aids and the other group did not.
After two years the group of seniors who wore hearing aids showed better performance for working memory and attention than those who did not wear a hearing aid. The hearing aid group showed faster reaction times, which reflect concentration such as straining to hear a sound, closely looking at some object of big interest and listening intently to someone who is speaking.
More Research is Needed and a Clinical Trial
The lead author of the PROTECT study, Dr. Anne Corbett said that more research is needed as well as a clinical trial.
Encouraging People to Wear a Hearing Aid may Help to Protect the Health of their Brains and Reduce their Risk for Dementia.
Professor Clive Ballard of the University of Exeter Medical School said that even though more research is needed, in the mean time people who have been advised to get a hearing aid should find one that is suitable to improve hearing and it may also keep their brains sharp.
Previous Research Associated Hearing Loss with Increased Risk for Dementia
Previous research compiled by the Lancet Commission on Dementia Prevention, Intervention and Care, found that age-related hearing loss was associated with increased loss of brain function and memory and an increased risk for dementia.
Reasons for Increased Dementia Risk in People with Hearing Loss
The AARP lists four reasons why hearing loss may increase the risk for dementia.
- Some believe that hearing loss puts an undue strain on the brain, as the person is always struggling to hear properly and this contributes to dementia.
- Some believe that a common physical problem like a virus or high blood pressure causes both hearing loss and cognitive decline.
- Hearing loss leads to social isolation, and this can contribute to dementia. This also impacts on quality of life if someone cannot hear the phone ringing or someone knocking on the door or be able to listen to the radio or television.
- Hearing loss may affect the structure of the brain in a negative way. For instance, imaging shows that seniors with hearing loss have less grey matter in the part of their brains that deals with processing sounds.
Other Reasons for Hearing Loss and Risk for Dementia
When people cannot hear normal sounds clearly they are more and more in a world of silence and this can sometimes cause them to hear audio hallucinations, which can push them over the edge to dementia.
Genes may play a role in both dementia and hearing loss.
Hearing Loss in the United States
According to the National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), hearing loss is one of the most common age-related problems that afflict the elderly and it is estimated that 1 in 3 seniors in the United States between ages 65 and 74 show some hearing loss. Almost half of US seniors over age 75 have problems with hearing. Age-related hearing loss called presbycusis usually affects both ears. It is considered incurable, but treatable with hearing aids or other implants and devices to aid hearing. To read more about hearing loss and aging see our blog post from February 26, 2018.
Memory Care at the Van Duyn Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing in Syracuse, New York
If your loved one is suffering from dementia and is in need of long-term skilled nursing care, the Van Duyn Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing in Syracuse, New York offers memory care to people suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s.
It certainly pays to improve your hearing with a hearing aid and it might also help your brain to stay healthy with less of a risk for dementia.