Study Suggests Hearing Aids May Cut Your Risk of Developing Dementia in Half

Healthy Aging With Beltone

Dementia affects people across the globe, and hearing loss is known to be one of the biggest risk factors for developing debilitating disease. A recent study published in The Lancet found that hearing aids could cut the risk of developing dementia in half for people facing a greater threat of cognitive decline. The study was the first randomized control study to investigate whether intervening with hearing aids would reduce the risk of developing dementia.

The study looked at more than 3,000 people from two populations: healthy community volunteers and older adults from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study, a longstanding observational study of cardiovascular health. Participants were randomly assigned to either a control group that received counseling in chronic disease prevention or an intervention group that received treatment from an audiologist and hearing aids. Researchers followed up with the groups every six months for three years, and at the end, they were given a score from a comprehensive neurocognitive test.

In the total group, hearing aids did not appear to reduce cognitive decline. But when researchers looked at just the older group that was at higher risk, they found a significant reduction in cognitive decline. The population more at risk saw rates of cognitive decline at levels almost three times higher than their counterparts, and the results call into question whether governments and individuals should prioritize hearing health to reduce dementia risk.

But how does hearing loss contribute to the risk of developing dementia? Three different mechanisms are thought to be at play:

Mechanism #1
If the cochlea wears out over time, the inner ear may be sending garbled signals to the brain, which has to work harder and redistribute brain power to understand what it’s hearing.

Mechanism #2
Hearing loss may have structural impacts on the brain’s integrity, and parts may be atrophying or shrinking faster.

Mechanism #3
If you can’t hear very well, you might be less likely to go out and participate in social activities.

The study's findings highlight the urgent need to take measures to address hearing loss to improve cognitive decline. Even if you have only mild hearing loss, using a hearing aid is a simple, effective, and practically risk-free method to preserve your cognition as much as possible.

Another study published in The Lancet found that in people with hearing loss, hearing aid use is associated with a risk of dementia of a similar level to that of people without hearing loss. The study used data from the UK Biobank, a population-based cohort study that recruited adults aged 40-69 years between 2006 and 2010 across 22 centers in England, Scotland, and Wales. The study found that compared with participants without hearing loss, people with hearing loss without hearing aids had an increased risk of all-cause dementia. However, people with hearing loss who used hearing aids did not have an increased risk of all-cause dementia.

The study's authors suggest that up to 8% of dementia cases could be prevented with proper hearing loss management. The study also found that reducing social isolation, loneliness and depressed mood mediated the association between hearing aid use and all-cause dementia.

In conclusion, the link between untreated hearing loss and an increased risk of dementia is clear. The studies' findings suggest that hearing loss should be treated as a public health issue, and that hearing aids should be made more accessible to people who need them. Using a hearing aid is a simple and effective way to preserve cognition and reduce the risk of cognitive decline.

Take Action Now to Protect Your Hearing and Cognitive Health

Being proactive about your health is key to healthy aging. If you know you are at risk of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s because of family history, stay on top of your hearing health and have your hearing checked regularly. Even if you don’t have a family history of cognitive decline, protecting your hearing health and seeking treatment for hearing loss can lower your risk of developing dementia and help you stay happy and healthy longer.

Schedule a free hearing assessment with a Beltone hearing care professional today to learn whether you have hearing loss and receive personalized treatment recommendations. Beltone hearing aids come in a variety of styles and include advanced features to enhance your hearing experience, such as Bluetooth, weatherproof and sweatproof coatings, discreet designs and color options, rechargeable batteries and more.

Even if you have only mild hearing loss, using a hearing aid is a simple, effective and practically risk-free method to preserve your cognition as much as possible. Find your local Beltone today to get started.