Washington: People who wear a hearing aid for age-related hearing problems maintain better brain function over time than those who do not, recent findings suggest.
The research, conducted by the University of Exeter and King’s College London, was presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Los Angeles. The study covered 25,000 people aged 50 or over.
The findings provide early evidence that encouraging people to wear an effective hearing aid may help to protect their brains and reduce their risk of dementia.
Both groups undertook annual cognitive tests over two years. After that, the group who wore hearing aids performed better in measures assessing working memory and aspects of attention than those who did not.
The research was discussed during the meeting of Alzheimer’s Association International Conference 2019.
On one attention measure, people who wore hearing aids showed faster reaction time — in everyday terms, this is a reflection of concentration, for example, ‘straining to hear a sound’, ‘peering closely at an object of great interest’, ‘listening intently to someone speaking’.
Previous research has shown that hearing loss is linked to a loss of brain function, memory and an increased risk of dementia.
According to the researchers, their 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. They now need more research and a clinical trial to test this and perhaps feed into policy to help keep people healthy in later life.
“We know that we could reduce dementia risk by a third if we all took action from mid-life. This research is part of an essential body of work to find out what really works to keep our brains healthy. This is an early finding and needs more investigation, yet it has exciting potential. 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,” said Clive Ballard, lead author of the study.