Hearing Aids to Potentially Minimize Dementia Risk for Seniors

Hearing aids may reduce the risk of dementia by 19 percent for individuals struggling with hearing loss, studies suggest.

Dementia refers to a cluster of conditions resulting in brain impairment, such as memory loss and judgment. It can lead to forgetfulness, finite social abilities, and reasoning.

Fortunately, 31 studies showed that individuals with hearing loss can wear hearing aids to minimize the risk of long-term cognitive decline by 19 percent. Hearing loss is prevalent among the elders, especially those above 70.

"And with this study that just came out, I think we can say, 'Probably,' " answered Columbia University oncologist Dr. Justin Golub when asked if hearing aids can help reduce the risk of dementia. "But to really say that that's the case, what we need is a randomized controlled trial, and so that's the next step. And, luckily some of these are coming down the turnpike."

Johns Hopkins University researchers are working on a randomized trial including around 1,000 seniors with hearing loss.

The research aims to study if hearing aids can reduce the risk of dementia. "If hearing loss does cause dementia," said researcher Jennifer Deal, "then that means we can potentially prevent up to 8 percent of dementia cases."

Research suggests that three theories could clarify the link between hearing loss and dementia. First, lack of socialization due to hearing loss can be an explanation.

"People who have hearing loss, tend not to listen to interesting radio programs like this," shared Golub said with WMFE. "They tend not to go out and socialize as much. And they're not having as much cognitively stimulating conversation. And over time that might not be good for your cognition."

The second is cognitive load, which refers to the amount of working memory used. With hearing changes, our brain receives a jumbled sign that requires more effort to process elements. Last, experts reveal that brain parts linked with sound, speech, and memory usually narrow down with hearing loss.

The expensive healthcare system and lack of medical services available refrained many elders from receiving the help they deserve. In October 2022, over-the-counter hearing aids became available for those with hearing impairment.

"Baby boomers really are the ones who want to stay fit and they want to stay active," said Hearing Loss Association of America executive director Barbara Kelley. "Hearing loss and hearing health is definitely part of that."

"For whatever reason," said Golub, "we haven't got into the habit of sticking hearing aids in our ears when we have hearing loss. And it just makes sense to do that. And I think over the next decade or so we're going to see a lot of change in that regard."

What is dementia?

Dementia is not a particular disease, but rather a group of symptoms and disabilities associated with our thought processes. Dementia includes a variety of diseases, including Alzheimer's Disease, Lewy Body Dementia, Vascular Dementia, and Fronto Temporal Dementia.

Dementia affects mostly the elders but is not a normal part of aging. For individuals over the age of 65, there were approximately 5 million adults with dementia in 2014 and is estimated to rise to 14 million by 2060.

It is completely normal to forget passwords to your social media account and forget to lock the front door, but dementia is not a normal part of aging.

Some common symptoms of dementia can include memory problems, communication complications, and more. Dementia is officially diagnosed by healthcare professionals by completing tests, and there is no one specific treatment for the disease. It is important to eat a balanced meal, lead a healthy lifestyle, and continue socializing.

Resources:

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked