Although hearing loss has been linked to cognitive decline in the form of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, treating it can be quite effective in preserving brain function.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, nearly 5.7 people in the U.S. currently have Alzheimer’s or some form of dementia. Another American develops dementia every 65 seconds, a rate that is expected to nearly triple the number of cases to 14 million Americans by 2060.
With Alzheimer’s being the sixth-leading cause of death in this country, there is extensive research into the disease and its causes. While these causes remain unclear, there are considerable findings showing a link between treating hearing loss with hearing aids and a slower rate of cognitive decline.
A recent study from the University of Manchester in the UK found that both hearing aids and cataract surgery are connected to a slower rate of cognitive decline associated with the aging process.
The study asked individuals to remember a list of 10 words both immediately after hearing them and after being distracted with other tasks. It found that using hearing devices cut the rate of cognitive decline by 75%, while cataract surgery cut the rate in half. Researchers checked rates of cognitive decline rates both before and after hearing aids were introduced.
While scientists remain uncertain as to the reason for the link, it is generally thought to be stem from a couple of factors.
One, as the brain must work harder to make sense of the sounds and sights around it, there is less energy available for tasks such as memory and thinking skills. Two, hearing and visual impairments tend to isolate people as they feel more disconnected from family and friends. The lack of stimulation to the brain accelerates the rate of cognitive decline.
Fortunately, the use of hearing aids can help significantly.
A large French study assessed approximately 4,000 senior citizens over a 25-year period. It found that individuals who treated hearing loss with hearing aids were at no higher risk of experiencing a decline in brain function as their peers with normal hearing.
Early detection and treatment of hearing loss is key to reduce cognitive decline. If you or a loved one is concerned about how hearing loss may be affecting quality of life, contact Hearing Associates at 888.760.2032 or request an appointment online. We have locations in Mason City, Iowa and throughout northern Iowa, as well as Albert Lea, Minnesota.