Recently there has been a lot of research questioning whether hearing loss has any effect on long term cognitive function. Cognitive function refers to mental abilities including learning, thinking, problem-solving, memory and decision-making. The body of knowledge around this question is increasing, so we have summarized the most recent article published in January 2020 for you.
Click this link for the full study.
The study examined the effect of hearing aid use on cognitive function in adults. Ninety-nine adults aged 60-84 years old with mild to moderate hearing loss were evaluated in multiple areas: audiometry, speech perception testing, cognitive screening and assessment, and health, quality of life, lifestyle and ease of listening questionnaires. The measurements provided a baseline for comparison at the end of the study.
Participants were fit with hearing aids and reassessed on the same measures after 18 months of regular hearing aid use.
The study found:
- Improved speech perception both objectively (based on data) and subjectively (feelings and opinions).
- Almost 2/3 of the group reported significantly reduced auditory/communication disability while wearing hearing aids. (Meaning they could hear and communicate better wearing hearing aids.)
- Significant improvement in cognitive function across the whole group for executive function, the mental processes that allow us to plan, focus attention, remember instructions, perform multiple tasks.
- Clinically significant improvement in working memory, visual attention and visual learning for females in the study.
- Participants self-reported overall quality of life was significantly improved.
The researchers acknowledge they had a small sample size and based on the design of the study we can’t determine any cause and effect relationships. However, it does show that hearing aid use may be correlated with improved cognitive function after 18 months of hearing aid use. Further studies will need to be done to confirm whether the use of hearing aids can delay or mitigate against the effects of cognitive decline.
The results of this study highlight how important it is to identify hearing loss in adults early so that an appropriate treatment plan can be put in place without delay. If you’ve already had your hearing tested – you’re on the right track. If it has been more than 2 years since your last hearing test, or if you have been noticing changes in your hearing, we recommend you make an appointment with one of our Audiologists.