Hearing aids can slow progress of dementia by up to 75%, new study finds
Manchester – October 12, 2018
A University of Manchester team has reported an association between hearing aids, cataract surgery, and mental deterioration. They say the connection means policy makers should consider hearing and sight loss screening for all older adults.
Dr. Piers Dawes said, “These studies underline just how important it is to overcome the barriers which deny people from accessing hearing and visual aids.”
The new research was published in PLOS ONE and the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
“It’s not really certain why hearing and visual problems have an impact on cognitive decline, but I’d guess that isolation, stigma and the resultant lack of physical activity that are linked to hearing and vision problems might have something to do with it.
“And there are barriers to overcome — people might not want to wear hearing aids because of stigma attached to wearing them, or they feel the amplification is not good enough or they’re not comfortable.”
Hearing loss is very common. It can be very distressing, particularly if it affects both ears. Everyone's hearing gets worse as they get older, but there are many types of hearing loss and not all are restricted to older people.
The Action on Hearing Loss charity believes the number of people suffering such difficulties will rise from one in six to one in five, as it called for more investment in treatment and research into hearing loss.
Despite this, the cost of research to solve problems for people with hearing loss is 10 times less than for research for people with sight loss.
Scientists believe that keeping older people engaged and active by using hearing aids can significantly reduce age-related cognitive decline.
The researchers followed the progress of 2,040 individuals between 1996 and 2014, asking them to complete word memory tests at various stages and monitoring the rate of decline before and after getting a hearing aid.
The research team found that while the aids did not halt or reverse cognitive decline, they slowed it down by three quarters; meanwhile in a separate group of 2,068 who underwent cataract surgery, decline slowed by about half.
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