Discover How Hearing Aids Prevent Memory Loss

In 2013, a researcher and epidemiologist from Johns Hopkins University conducted a study that that found the potential impact of hearing loss on brain function.

Study participants with hearing loss took a number of cognitive tests to measure memory and thinking skills over six years along with hearing tests.

As a result, the researchers discovered that those with hearing loss also suffered a decline in cognitive abilities at about a 30 to 40 percent faster rate than ones with normal hearing. That’s even after taking into account other contributing factors like age, hypertension, and diabetes.

According to this study, individuals with hearing loss suffer higher rates of cognitive decline related to the severity of the hearing loss. In other words, the more pronounced the hearing loss, the greater impact it has on brain functioning. In addition, people with hearing loss show signs of cognitive impairment up three or more years sooner than those with normal hearing.

This research shows a strong connection between hearing loss and cognitive decline, but the question remains as to how hearing loss can cause cognitive decline.
How is it Possible?

The study authors proposed three explanations for the phenomena:

  • Hearing loss can lead to social isolation, which is a known risk factor for cognitive decline.
  • Hearing loss forces the brain to devote too many resources to the processing of sound, at the expense of memory and thinking.
  • A common underlying injury to the brain causes both hearing loss and declined brain function.

Perhaps it’s a combination of all three. What is clear is that, regardless of the cause, the connection between hearing loss and cognitive decline is strong.

The question now becomes, what can we do about it? Researchers estimate that 27 million Americans over age 50, including two-thirds of men and women aged 70 years and older, suffer from some form of hearing loss. Is there a way those with hearing loss can prevent or reverse cognitive decline?
How can Hearing Aids Prevent This Decline?

Recall the three ways that hearing loss is thought to cause accelerated cognitive decline. Now, consider how hearing aids could address or correct those causes:

  • People with hearing aids regain their social confidence become more socially active, and the effects of social isolation—and its contribution to mental decline—are mitigated or eliminated.
  • Hearing aids prevent the overtaxing effect of struggling to hear. Cognitive resources are freed up for memory and thinking.
  • Hearing aids produce increased sound stimulation to the brain, helping to re-establish neural connections.

Admittedly, this is only theoretical, and the big question is: does wearing hearing aids, in fact, slow or prevent accelerated mental decline, and can we measure this?

The answer could be found in an upcoming study by Dr. Frank Lin, the lead researcher of the initial study. Lin is working on the first clinical trial to study whether hearing aids can be objectively measured to prevent or mitigate brain decline.

Stay tuned for the results, which we’ll cover on our blog once published.

Want more information?

Checkout these related articles

Kevin St. Clergy
| July 11, 2020

What You Need to Know About the Speech Banana

If you’ve been having trouble hearing certain words or phrases, it might be due to something called the speech banana. So what is the speech banana? […]

Read More…

Chunks of chocolate to help prevent hearing loss.
Kevin St. Clergy
| July 9, 2020

A Health Benefit of Chocolate I Bet You Didn’t Know

Could eating more chocolate decrease your chances of developing hearing loss? Here’s the evidence. […]

Read More…

Man who wanted the best workout earbuds discovers they are actually hurting his hearing
Kevin St. Clergy
| July 9, 2020

Can Working Out Cause Tinnitus?

You always have to make sure your workout is safe, but have you considered how it could be impacting your hearing health? […]

Read More…

Find A Hearing Expert Near You Today

Discover everything you need to know about hearing loss and hearing aids and find top local hearing experts.

Find An Expert