1 in 10 Americans experiences some hearing loss by the age of 40. The loss happens gradually and most people do not notice it at first. Most people are in denial about their hearing loss until it’s too late and some age-related memory loss has set in, combined with cognitive decline.
Researchers at University of Manchester have found that this cognitive decline can be slowed down by 75% by starting the use of hearing aids. To assess the cognitive abilities of the study participants, the researchers tracked around 2,000 adults before and after they started using hearing aids. They have tested the participants every two years between 1996 and 2014, testing their memory, and other cognitive abilities.
“We weren’t expecting that hearing aid use would eliminate cognitive decline. That’s just not going to happen” because age-related decline is inevitable, explains Piers Dawes, an experimental psychologist and another author of the study. “But the reduction in the rate of change is quite substantial. It’s a very intriguing finding.”
The researchers presume that once the hearing is improved, or restored, thanks to hearing aids, the nerves in the ears start stimulating the nerves in the brain. The hearing aids allow the brain to again process sound, and hearing aid wearers also tend to be more socially engaged thanks to their ability to hear.