Individuals Wearing a Hearing Aid for Age-Related Hearing Problems Maintain Better Brain Function Over Time

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Wearing hearing aids can protect the brain

A hearing loss that is left untreated can lead to emotional and social problems, a reduction in job performance, and an overall diminished quality of life. Untreated age-related hearing loss can also interfere with cognitive abilities due to the mental effort put forth to understand speech. A new research study is looking at how users of hearing aids for age-related hearing loss sustain better brain function over time than those who do not use one. The study builds on prior research that suggests a hearing loss is a risk factor for impaired brain function. The findings offer early evidence that people who wear an effective hearing aid may help to shield their brains and reduce their risk of dementia.

The Study

The study demonstrated that participants wearing hearing aids outpaced people who didn’t wear the hearing aids on virtually every measure of the assessments. This outcome was encouraging news to the researchers, as they now had concrete evidence that a device as simple as a hearing aid could not only help older adults’ daily lives but also expand their overall brain function later in life.

Method

Both groups started yearly cognitive tests over a two-year time frame. After this period, the group who wore hearing aids did better in measures evaluating working retention and parts of attention than individuals who were not wearing hearing aids. On one attention measure, participants who wore hearing aids exhibited faster reaction times. The findings offer early evidence that encouraging people to wear an effective hearing aid may help to protect their brains and lessen their risk of dementia.

Half of the test group wore hearing aids to assist with hearing loss linked with aging, while the second part of the group went lacking a hearing aid. The researchers had each group take part in annual tests measuring their understanding for two years. The participants endured testing on their capacity for focusing, reaction times, and memory, which factor into regular daily activities. The researchers know that previous research demonstrates how hearing loss is linked to a loss of brain function, memory, and increases the risk of dementia. This current study is one of the largest to examine the impact a hearing aid has upon brain function over time.

Results

The study concludes that individuals wearing a hearing aid for age-related hearing problems maintain better brain function over time than people who do not use a hearing aid. As recent research suggests that hearing loss is a risk factor for dementia, the researchers believe that hearing aids may lessen the risk for dementia. The research involves an online study of 25,000 people aged 50 and over. The research team now feels as though additional research is needed. Research and clinical trials to test their findings and hopefully lead to policy for keeping people healthy later on in life. The researchers strongly encourage people to use a hearing aid. Not only can it help your hearing, but it might help keep your brain intact later on.

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