Hearing Aids Can Help More Than Just Your Hearing

Hearing aids help with more than just your hearing and can slow cognitive decline. Many people exercise their brains by completing crossword puzzles and answering brain teasers. Keeping the brain healthy helps keep the rest of the body healthy. Recently, research has shown that hearing aid can delay cognitive decline. A study done at the University of Melbourne stated “cognitive decline is associated with hearing loss, which affects about 32 percent of people aged 55 years, and more than 70 percent of people aged over 70 years.” The study concluded that after 18 months of using hearing aids, participants reported quality of life had vastly improved along with executive function either staying fixed or improving. Cognitive decline is commonly found in dementia patients. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, “dementia is a general term for loss of memory, language, problem-solving and other abilities that are severe enough to interfere with daily life.” Currently, there is not a cure for dementia, but there are ways to abate the symptoms surrounding it. Many factors influence cognitive decline and dementia-like diet, environment, and lifestyle. Research has shown that there is a relationship between dementia and untreated hearing loss. Why does this happen? If someone has untreated hearing loss, they are not using a specific portion of neurons and gray matter regions in the brain. 


Neurons: These neurons then stop working at their usual rapid pace, which translates into cognitive decline. When someone uses hearing aids, the same specific set of neurons are being used and kept functioning at a normal level. 


Gray matter: Gray matter is located on the outer portions of the brain. Its job is to help with the coordination of muscle control and sensory perception. When issues start to affect the gray matter, the person has difficulty seeing, hearing, memory, emotions, speech, decision making, and self-control. In someone with untreated hearing, the amount of gray matter is significantly decreased, due to not having stimulation to the area surrounding that portion of gray matter. 

In addition to hearing aids linked to a decrease in cognitive decline, they also reduce the risk of falls. Hearing and balance are very closely related. In the same ways, untreated hearing loss affects cognition, affects balance. Treating the hearing loss keeps the gray matter function and the neuron firing. It is important to treat parts of the body you cannot see like parts of the body you can see. Just as how you exercise your arms and legs, you need to exercise your brain. Ensure you are up-to-date with all your doctors’ appointments, including neurologists, ophthalmologists, and audiologists. 


If you notice you or someone else has not been hearing as well, it may be time to contact your local hearing care professional or audiologist.