Older adults with hearing loss are more likely to experience cognitive decline and an increased risk of developing dementia. However, a new study suggests that hearing aids can moderate this risk. Older adults with hearing loss who wore hearing aids were nearly half as likely to develop dementia as those who didn’t.
Researchers recruited nearly 1,000 older adults aged 70 to 84 with untreated hearing loss. About half of the participants received hearing aids, and the other half received health education counseling. The researchers assessed the participants' cognitive function every six months for three years.
They found no difference in cognitive decline between the two groups when considering the entire cohort. However, when they looked at specific subgroups, they found that the effect of hearing aids on cognitive change varied according to the participants' risk profiles. Specifically, hearing aids appeared to reduce cognitive change in older adults with a higher risk of decline but not in those with a lower risk.
These findings suggest that hearing aids benefit older adults with a higher risk of cognitive decline. Approximately two-thirds of all adults over 70 have some degree of hearing loss. Evidence suggests that adhering to healthy dietary patterns such as the DASH diet or the Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of mild hearing loss by nearly 30 percent, highlighting potential links between diet, dementia, and hearing loss. Learn more about dietary strategies to reduce the risk of dementia in this episode featuring Dr. Dale Bredesen.