AARP Eye Center
Can your hearing affect your thinking and memory?
The answer appears to be yes. Research shows that hearing loss — which affects about one in three Americans ages 65-74 and nearly half of those older than 75 — is a risk factor for dementia, and it’s been linked to a greater risk of cognitive decline, depression and falls.
On average, older adults with hearing loss develop a significant decline in their cognitive abilities about 3 years sooner than those with normal hearing, according to a study led by Johns Hopkins University researcher Frank Lin, an expert in hearing loss and the brain. Other recent studies also suggest that untreated hearing loss may accelerate cognitive decline.
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“Looking after your hearing health is also looking after your brain health,” notes Australian researcher Julia Sarant, an associate professor and audiologist at the University of Melbourne.
One crucial question is whether using a hearing aid could help delay this decline. In a new study published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine, Sarant and a team of researchers studied 99 adults ages 62 to 82 with hearing loss who were fitted with hearing aids to wear for 18 months. Afterwards, just over 97 percent of participants showed either significant improvement or no decline in certain brain function skills, such as working memory and flexible thinking.
Women showed more improvement on a range of mental skills tests than men did, which Sarant credits to women wearing their hearing aids more than the men — 56 percent versus 33 percent of the time.
All of this suggests that wearing hearing aids may delay cognitive decline and may even improve brain function, researchers said.
Find out more about hearing and brain health in the full article, Why Helping Your Hearing May Help Support Your Brain.
This content is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide any expert, professional or specialty advice or recommendations. Readers are urged to consult with their medical providers for all questions.