For several years, studies have linked hearing loss and dementia, but no major study has addressed the big question: Could using hearing aids reduce the risk of cognitive decline?
Now a new French study finds that older adults who use hearing aids experience the same rate of cognitive decline as their peers with normal hearing.
In other words, while hearing loss is associated with accelerated cognitive decline, hearing aids can slow that from happening, researchers say.
The study, published online last month in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, followed nearly 3,700 adults age 65 and older for 25 years. Nearly 1,300 reported major or moderate hearing loss, while about 2,400 said they had normal hearing. All were given annual questionnaires to fill out, as well as psychological testing every two to three years to assess cognitive skills.
Over the course of the study, the majority of subjects experienced some cognitive decline as they aged, but those with hearing loss who did not use hearing aids experienced that decline at an accelerated rate. Those who used hearing aids experienced cognitive decline at the same rate as those with normal hearing — welcome news indeed.
“With a large sample size and 25 years of follow-up of participants, this study clearly confirms that hearing loss is associated with cognitive decline in older adults” but that using hearing aids reduces the decline, lead author Helene Amieva, of the University of Bordeaux in France, told Reuters.