Hearing management

Updated 07 December 2017

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.


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

Dr Kara Hoffman graduated from UCT in 2004, thereafter she completed her year of community service in Durban. In 2010 she completed her Masters Degree in Paediatric Aural Rehabilitation from UKZN. In 2016, she became a Doctor of Audiology through the University of Arizona (ATSU). Dr Hoffman and her partner Lauren Thompson opened a fully diagnostic audiology practice called Thompson & Hoffman Audiology Inc. In 2011 with world-class technology and equipment to be able to offer the broad public all hearing-related services including hearing testing for adults and babies, vestibular (balance) assessments and rehabilitation, industrial audiology, hearing devices, central auditory processing assessments for school-aged children, school screening, neonatal hearing screening programmes at Alberlito and Parklands Hospital, cochlear implants and other implantable devices, medicolegal assessments and advanced electroacoustic assessments of hearing. Thompson and Hoffman Audiology Inc. are based at Alberlito Hospital in Ballito, St Augustines Hospital in Durban and at 345 Essenwood Road, Musgrave. The practices are all wheelchair friendly. There are three audiologists that practice from Thompson & Hoffman – including Dr Kara Hoffman, Lauren Thompson & Minette Lister. The practice boasts professional, highly qualified, and extensive diagnostic services where all your hearing healthcare needs can be met. The additional licensing in vestibular assessment and rehabilitation, paediatric rehabilitation and cochlear implantation places this practice in one of the top specialist audiological positions in South Africa, with a wealth of experience in all clinical areas of audiology and is a very well respected and sought-after practice.

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