I wanted to write a bit about one of my interests which relates to hearing loss and something which is very much a ‘hot’ topic among all of us Audiologists at the moment. The area is hearing loss and the effect it has on cognition and memory.
Hearing loss, cognition and memory:
Us audiologists have noticed for some time that people who are good hearing aid wearers i.e., they wear their aids all day every day, just seemed to be in better health, more spritely and more socially active. Now almost as a weekly ritual, new research is coming out of universities to support what we often see in our clinic rooms.
A recent study at John Hopkins University looked at 253 people with an average age of 77 years with a range of hearing loss from mild to severe. They tested these individuals on tasks related to memory, learning, language and processing speed/attention over 23 years. It was generally seen that those individuals with moderate to severe hearing loss declined in their ability to perform these tasks over the 20 years, yet those individuals who were not good hearing aid users declined the most. Most interesting was that those individuals who wore their hearing aids regularly declined only slightly compared to a group of similarly aged individuals with no hearing loss at all!
So while we cannot yet say that hearing aids prevent cognitive decline, there is definitely a stronger link between hearing loss, cognitive decline and memory issues in individuals with untreated hearing loss than in those wearing hearing aids.