Hearing aids may cut risk of mental decline, study suggests

People with hearing loss who wore hearing aids were less likely to suffer cognitive impairment.

23 February 2022

Hearing aids may help to reduce a person’s risk of cognitive decline, new reserach suggests.

People who suffer hearing loss are more likely to develop mild cognitive impairment (MIC) – a precursor to dementia, researchers found.

But those who use hearing aids to combat hearing loss are less likely to develop MIC, they found.

Mild cognitive impairment occurs when people have thinking and memory problems that are worse than expected, but not bad enough to warrant a diagnosis of dementia.

Researchers from Ulster University and the University of Oxford examined more than 4,300 adult volunteers from the US who submit annual data to the National Alzheimer’s Coordinating Centre.

The study, published in the journal Alzheimer’s and Dementia: Translational Research and Clinical Interventions, found that hearing loss was linked to an increased risk of MIC and an accelerated rate of cognitive decline.

But those who used hearing aids were 53% less likely to develop MIC compared to their peers who did not use a hearing aid.

The authors of the study, which was co-funded by Dementias Platform UK, concluded that the “use of hearing aids may help mitigate cognitive decline associated with hearing loss”.

Study lead, Dr Magda Bucholc, lecturer in data analytics at Ulster University, said: “Hearing aid use is linked to lower rates of cognitive decline and reduced risk of MCI in cognitively healthy adults, with hearing aid users having more than 50% lower risk of MCI compared to those not using hearing aids.

“Importantly, we found that no significant differences in risk of developing MCI and cognitive decline exist between participants experiencing no hearing loss and those diagnosed with hearing impairment using hearing aids.

“Our findings imply that the use of hearing aids may help lessen cognitive decline associated with hearing loss.

“So improved audiology screening and better access to quality hearing healthcare form an actionable strategy to reduce the incidence of MCI and help mitigate the impending dementia epidemic.”

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