Hearing Aids may Delay Cognitive Decline and Improve Brain Function in Older Adults

The use of hearing aids may delay cognitive decline while improving brain function in older adults, according to the findings of a new study published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine.

In this study, researchers assessed almost 100 patients between the ages of 62-82 before and at 18 months of hearing aid fitting. The subjects were evaluated on hearing, cognitive function, speech perception, quality of life, physical activity, loneliness, isolation, mood, and medical health. The researchers noted that at baseline, linear regression showed that both hearing loss and age predicted diminished executive function performance, while having a tertiary education level predicted both higher executive function and increased visual learning.

According to the results of the study, speech perception in quiet, self-reported listening disability and quality of life had significantly improved subsequent to hearing aid fitting. The researchers observed that average scores across the cognitive test battery showed no significant decline, while executive function notably improved. They also observed that Reliable Change Index scores exhibited clinically significant improvement or stability in executive function for 97.3% of participants, and especially among females with respect to working memory, visual attention and visual learning. Moreover, a clinically significant improvement in relative stability and cognition were seen after 18 months of hearing aid use, and the researchers wrote that this suggested “that treatment of hearing loss with hearing aids may delay cognitive decline.”

University of Melbourne Associate Professor and Chief Investigator of the study, Julia Sarant, said in a press release that improvement in cognitive function is something that is not usually seen in older adults. “Although there are successful treatments for hearing loss, there is currently no successful treatment for cognitive decline or dementia.”

Prof. Sarant added that: “This research is a positive step in investigating the treatment of hearing aids to delay cognitive decline. Further research is underway to compare cognitive outcomes from a larger sample size with those of a healthy aging comparison group of older Australians with typical hearing for their age.”