Hearing aids could be an important tool in the effort to prevent cognitive decline and dementia, according to a new study.
Research has established that hearing loss is an important risk factor in the development of dementia, but it’s less clear whether hearing loss intervention will also treat progression of cognitive decline, the lead author said. study, Woei Shyang Loh, head of otolaryngology at National University. Hospital and National University of Singapore.
The new study published Monday in JAMA Neurology offers evidence that managing hearing loss can potentially help reduce or delay cognitive decline, Loh said.
A meta-analysis of 3,243 studies, both observational and trial, the research examined the association between hearing loss and cognitive decline over a range of durations, from two to 25 years. The review found that people with hearing loss who wore assistive devices performed 3% better on short-term cognitive scores, according to the study.
Hearing aid use was associated with a 19% reduction in long-term cognitive decline, according to the study. When it comes to cognitive decline, preventing progression is important, the study authors noted.
“Dementia is much easier to prevent than to treat, and extremely difficult to reverse,” said study lead author Dr Benjamin Tan, dean of the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine at National University of Singapore.
Hearing loss, while a major risk factor for cognitive decline, is fairly easily corrected in developed countries, said Dr. Thomas Holland, a physician-scientist at the Rush Institute for Health Aging. Holland did not participate in the research.
“Get screened for hearing loss, and if you have hearing loss, speak to your audiologist or ENT doctor to ensure appropriate and optimal correction to avoid the potential risk of dementia and cognitive decline,” a said Holland.
The researchers said the next question to consider is whether the severity of hearing loss alters the effectiveness of interventions when it comes to preventing cognitive decline.
But in the meantime, people with hearing loss should talk to their doctor about whether it’s appropriate to use hearing aids, Tan said.
And it’s never too early to intervene, he added, saying the new study shows the benefits add up over time.
“Therefore, affected patients should start treatment now, if they want to see benefits in a few years,” Tan said.
But using these devices may even benefit those who have begun to show decline in cognition, and according to the new research, patients may still see benefits even if they didn’t add hearing aids sooner. , he added.
“Encouragingly, even patients who already started with mild cognitive impairment (“dementia praecox”) in our pooled analysis also benefited from hearing aid use, as they also had about a 20% lower risk to progress to dementia,” Tan said via email. . “This means it’s never too late to start using hearing aids, but early treatment can help preserve cognition as much as possible.”
However, hearing aids aren’t the only way to prevent cognitive decline, and a well-rounded preventative approach is important, Holland said.
“In addition to having your hearing examined by an audiologist or physician, strive to implement healthy lifestyle changes that slow or reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s dementia,” he says.
These include a healthy diet like the MIND diet, which aims to prevent Alzheimer’s disease, or the Mediterranean diet, Holland said. Also included are moderate to vigorous physical activity, an active social life, good sleep, and stress reduction.
Holland recommends seeing your primary care physician once a year for medical evaluations to properly control blood sugar and blood pressure, which are important for brain health.
And cognitively stimulating activities, like visiting museums, reading books or starting new hobbies, are also important to work in your life, Holland said.