Hearing management

Updated 24 August 2016

Hearing aids may keep seniors' minds sharp

Hearing aids may offer a simple way to prevent or slow the development of dementia by keeping adults with hearing loss engaged in conversation and communication.

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A hearing aid may do more than help you hear better: New research suggests that the devices might also help prevent mental decline in elderly people with hearing loss.

Much better scores

"We know that hearing aids can keep older adults with hearing loss more socially engaged by providing an important bridge to the outside world," Dr Anil Lalwani, a professor of otolaryngology/head and neck surgery at Columbia University Medical Centre in New York City, said in a centre news release.

"In this study, we wanted to determine if they could also slow the effects of ageing on cognitive function," he added.

Read: Hearing loss can make elderly feel more isolated

The study included 100 adults, aged 80 to 99, with hearing loss. The 34 who regularly used hearing aids had much better scores on tests of mental function than those who didn't use hearing aids.

The researchers also found that mental function was directly linked to hearing ability in those who didn't use a hearing aid.

The study was published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.

Social isolation and dementia

"Our study suggests that using a hearing aid may offer a simple, yet important, way to prevent or slow the development of dementia by keeping adults with hearing loss engaged in conversation and communication," Lalwani said.

Read: Can hearing aids reduce forgetfulness?

More than half of people older than 75 have hearing loss. But, fewer than 15 percent of those with hearing loss use a hearing aid, the researchers said.

Previous research has shown that hearing-impaired elderly people are at increased risk for fall- and accident-related death, social isolation and dementia, compared to those without hearing loss.

Previous studies have also found that hearing aid use can improve hearing loss-related social, functional and emotional problems, the researchers said.

Read more:

What is hearing loss?

Causes of hearing loss

Treating hearing loss

Image: An old man listening to the radio from iStock

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Hearing Expert

Francis Slabber is a Speech & Language Therapist and Audiologist who has owned and run The Hearing Clinic in Wynberg, Cape Town for the last 17 years. Francis and her team have extensive experience in fitting and supplying hearing aids as well as assistive living devices. Francis has served as the Western Cape Chairperson for the South African Association of Audiologists for three years and has given many talks on the topic of hearing loss and amplification. The Hearing Clinic has a special interest in adult and geriatric hearing impairment, hearing aid fittings and hearing rehabilitation.

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