Health & Wellness

Hearing Aids May Delay Cognitive Decline

A new study suggests that hearing aids can help older adults boost brain function


Australian researchers recently published a small-scale study that seems to show that the use of hearing aids can help delay the cognitive decline associated with aging and improve brain function.

Researchers at the University of Melbourne tested the theory in almost 100 adults between the ages of 62 and 82 who had hearing loss. Participants’ hearing, cognitive function, perception of speech, sense of well-being, physical activity, and medical health were assessed before they were given hearing aids and then again 18 months later.

Though the study was small, its findings were positive: 97.3% of participants saw a significant improvement or stability in executive function—the ability to plan and to organize information and initiate tasks. Women in particular saw an improvement in their working memory—reasoning and decision-making.

The more frequently participants wore the aids, the more they benefited. Women tended to use them more diligently, researchers found.

Hearing loss is associated with cognitive decline and a known risk factor for dementia.

“Although there are successful treatments for hearing loss, there is currently no successful treatment for cognitive decline or dementia,” said Julia Sarant, an associate professor at the university and chief investigator with the team.

“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.”

According to the Hearing Foundation of Canada, 10% of Canadians are affected by hearing loss, half of them over 65.

Photo: iStock/Canetti.