Study reveals hearing aids may reduce dementia risk in later life

May 11, 2023 in Hearing Care

Study reveals hearing aids may reduce dementia risk in later life

For years, we’ve known that unaddressed hearing loss leads to an increased risk of dementia. But now, new research published by the University of Exeter concludes that wearing an effective hearing aid can reduce this risk, by helping you to maintain brain function in later life.

The links between dementia and hearing loss

According to the World Health Organisation, age-related hearing loss is estimated to affect one-third of people over the age of 65.

When we lose our hearing, our brain begins to decline faster. Research tells us that the rate of cognitive decline is approximately 30-40% faster in people with age-related hearing loss. What’s more, hearing loss is thought to be a greater contributor to the risk of dementia than other factors such as hypertension or obesity.

Now, new research conducted by the University of Exeter and King’s College London finds that people who wear an effective hearing aid can help to protect their brains and reduce their risk of dementia.

“Previous research has shown that hearing loss is linked to a loss of brain function, memory and an increased risk of dementia. Our work is one of the largest studies to look at the impact of wearing a hearing aid, and suggests that wearing a hearing aid could actually protect the brain.” - Dr Anne Corbett, University of Exeter

Small changes with big results.

The study surveyed 25,000 people aged 50 or over, splitting them into 2 groups – one which wore hearing aids and one which did not. Both groups undertook annual cognitive tests over 2 years. The results were surprising.

woman wearing hearing aids

The group who wore hearing aids performed better in cognitive tasks. Many displayed faster reaction times and increased working memory. Scientists explain that’s because the majority of their brain power wasn’t tied up in tasks such as ‘straining to hear a sound’ or ‘listening intently to someone speaking’.

“We know that we could reduce dementia risk by a third if we all took action from mid-life. The message here is that if you’re advised you need a hearing aid, find one that works for you. At the very least it will improve your hearing and it could help keep your brain sharp too.” - Professor Clive Ballard, University of Exeter Medical School

Protect your Brain Health

The sooner we treat our hearing loss by wearing hearing aids, the more of our brain we can protect. This reduces the risk of dementia - as reported by the BBC in the article “Nine lifestyle changes can reduce dementia risk”. (1) We can reduce the risk of dementia by a third if we improve our lifestyle choices, be healthy and treat hearing loss early. Research tells us the sooner we act, the more of our brain we can protect.

So, if you’ve been advised that you need a hearing aid, it’s a good idea to find one that works for you, sooner rather than later.

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