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Research Roundup: Two recent studies on the correlation between hearing loss and dementia

Contributed by Dr. Leslie Soiles, Chief Audiologist

6/14/2023 12:00:00 AM • 8 min read

As Chief Audiologist at HearingLife, it’s my job to ensure our team and customers are aware of the latest research in the field and the importance of making sure people with hearing loss get the treatment they need. As a person with hearing loss, I know firsthand the power of hearing aids, and that’s why I’m so passionate about educating people on the importance of treating hearing loss!

In recent months, there have been two new studies released that show a correlation between treating hearing loss and a reduced risk of cognitive decline and/or dementia, and I want to share some key takeaways from these studies. I believe treating hearing loss is life-changing, and it may have an impact on long-term health as well.

From JAMA Neurology: Association of Hearing Aids and Cochlear Implants with Cognitive Decline and Dementia

This study was a meta-analysis, which means the authors took a larger number of different studies and trials and combined the results to make conclusions based on a bigger data set. This analysis looked at 25 observational studies and 6 trials with a total of 137,484 participants.

The study found that participants who treated their hearing loss with hearing aids had a 19% decrease in the risk of long-term cognitive decline. In addition, use of hearing aids was also associated with a 3% improvement in cognitive test scores.2 The authors conclude that future studies should explore this connection further.

From The Lancet: Association between hearing aid use and all-cause and cause-specific dementia: an analysis of the UK Biobank cohort

The second analysis also reviewed multiple studies with a participant total of 126,903 and a follow-up of 2–25 years and found that people with hearing loss who used hearing aids had a 19% lower risk of cognitive decline compared with those with uncorrected hearing loss.3 Short-term trials4 showed slight cognitive improvement in those who received hearing aids. However, the authors found no long-term trials of the effects of cochlear implants on the risk of subsequent dementia. This is an area for future study, according to the study authors.

This study goes on to estimate that up to 8% of dementia cases may be preventable with proper hearing loss management.3 Again, further study should look at the relationship between hearing and dementia.

My Conclusion – don’t wait to get hearing aids

The findings from these studies continue to expand on the body of knowledge that shows a possible connection between loss of our senses as we age and cognitive decline. Scientists will no doubt be working on uncovering the intricacies of this connection in the years to come.

The average person waits 7 years to treat their hearing loss1, a statistic that I find so disappointing as someone who personally wears hearing aids and has benefited greatly from them in my own life. I hope that studies like this one – and those to come in the future – help more people decide not to wait!

Ask your doctor for a hearing test today or book a complimentary hearing assessment at a HearingLife location near you. Don’t wait to purchase the hearing aids you need – we offer financing and payment options and have a wide range of hearing aids available to fit your lifestyle and budget.

 

Sources:

  1. Hearing Loss Facts and Statistics. Hearing Loss Association of America. Accessed 11/28/2022. https://www.hearingloss.org/wp-content/uploads/HLAA_HearingLoss_Facts_Statistics.pdf
  2. JAMA Neurology - Association of Hearing Aids and Cochlear Implants with Cognitive Decline and Dementia; A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamaneurology/article-abstract/2799139
  3. Association between hearing aid use and all-cause and cause-specific dementia: an analysis of the UK Biobank cohort: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanpub/article/PIIS2468-2667(23)00048-8/fulltext
  4. Sarant, J.; Harris, D.; Busby, P.; Maruff, P.; Schembri, A.; Lemke, U.; Launer, S. The Effect of Hearing Aid Use on Cognition in Older Adults: Can We Delay Decline or Even Improve Cognitive Function? J. Clin. Med. 2020, 9, 254. https://doi.org/10.3390/jcm9010254
Leslie Soiles, Chief Audiologist
Dr. Leslie Soiles

Au.D., Doctor of Audiology
Lic. #364, Chief Audiologist, HearingLife

Dr. Leslie Soiles founded HearingLife's Shrewsbury's office (formerly New England Hearing Instruments) in 1996. As a Doctor of Audiology, she has worked with Ear, Nose and Throat Physicians for the first 20 years of her career.

Dr. Soiles serves as Chief Audiologist for HearingLife. Click here to read her complete bio and learn more about her education and background.

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