A study conducted by the University of Exeter and King’s College London in the UK has found that people who wear hearing aids for age-related hearing problems (age-related hearing loss) maintain better brain function over time than those who do not.
The study builds on important research in recent years compiled for example by the Lancet Commission on Dementia Prevention, Intervention and Care, which has found that hearing loss emerged as an important risk factor for dementia. This study from University of Exeter and King’s College suggests that wearing a hearing aid may mitigate that risk.
Compared users and non-users
The findings provide early evidence that can encourage people to wear an effective hearing aid as they may help to protect their brains and reduce their risk of dementia.
The study involved annual cognitive tests over two years in a group of people who wore hearing aids and another group who did not.
Both groups undertook annual cognitive tests over two years. Data showed that people wearing hearing aids demonstrated better performance in tests that evaluate their working memory and attention, compared to individuals who did not wear hearing aids. The researchers noted that participants with hearing aids also had faster reaction times, which is said to be a reflection of concentration.
Hearing loss linked to brain function
PROTECT lead Dr Anne Corbett from the University of Exeter said: “Previous research has shown that hearing loss is linked to a loss of brain function, memory and an increased risk of dementia. Our 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. We now need more research and a clinical trial to test this and perhaps feed into policy to help keep people healthy in later life.”
Find hearing aids that work for you
Professor Clive Ballard, the University of Exeter Medical School, said: “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.”