The findings of a recent hearing loss study are extremely important. This research is for everyone, not just those with hearing loss.
As a Doctor of Audiology, I feel obligated to share this with our community. Let’s talk about what this CNN-published study found and what it means for you.
The question researchers wanted to answer was:
Do hearing aids and cochlear implants decrease the risk of subsequent cognitive decline in individuals with hearing loss?
Cognitive decline can be memory loss, reduced thinking speed, and other impairments of the mind. It’s a broad term and it can be applied to many forms of reduced cognitive ability.
This study comes from the JAMA Network, a peer-reviewed medical publication with more than 40 years of history. Studies took place around the world: 13 in Europe, 12 in North America, two in Asia, and two in Australasia.
In total, there were 137,484 participants. The studies were observational and trial-based, monitoring the connection between hearing loss and cognitive decline.
The longest studies went on 25 years, while the minimum duration was two years.
The study reinforces what we already knew about the connection between hearing loss and cognitive decline. The Singaporean study is one of the most in-depth in its field and highlights the benefits of hearing aids and cochlear implants.
So, What Did this Study Find?
This study leaves us with three main findings.
The study shows that hearing aids were associated with a 19% reduction in long-term cognitive decline. To quote the study, “the usage of hearing restorative devices by participants with hearing loss was associated with a 19% decrease in hazards of long-term cognitive decline.”
Using hearing aids also had an effect on patients who were already in the early stages of cognitive impairment. This demonstrates that not only do hearing aids help prevent cognitive decline, but their benefits also continue once the decline has begun.
The study also shows that for patients struggling with early stages of dementia, those who wore hearing aids had a 20% lower risk of developing dementia
Researchers also found a significant association between hearing aids and improved cognitive test scores. Over a short time period, the usage of hearing aids was strongly linked to a 3% rise in test scores.
Here are the main things to take away from this report:
Referring to hearing aids and cochlear implants, the researchers state that “physicians should strongly encourage their patients with hearing loss to adopt such devices.”
The nine researchers are affiliated with six different departments within the National University Hospital and the National University of Singapore. The study used a mix of observational and clinical trials as a basis for the final results.
This research study reaffirms that hearing aids affect more than our auditory health. At all stages of life, hearing support is vital.
Visual impairment is also associated with cognitive decline.
Let’s Paint a Clearer Picture of Cognitive Decline
A term like cognitive decline might sound vague or obscure, so let’s attach more meaning.
Cognitive deficit and cognitive impairment are interchangeable terms for cognitive decline. Our memory, focus, problem-solving, and learning are just a few areas that can be affected. Cognitive decline can also reduce our motivation, dexterity, movement, and awareness.
This poster displays the many forms of cognitive decline, and it’s useful for understanding just how many things it can affect.
Research like this further illuminates the link between hearing health and cognitive decline.
Prevention is more important than most of us give it credit for. Sometimes we delay health checks until real challenges present themselves, but this strategy doesn’t help anyone.
Book a regular hearing assessment with a trusted audiological practice to prioritize your hearing and support your future cognitive health.
This goes for friends’ and loved ones’ hearing health too. Look out for those around you, and offer to accompany someone if they need it.