October 2023

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Health Capsule

Treating Hearing Loss to Help Brain Health

More than 6 million people in the U.S. are living with dementia. The condition causes loss of thinking abilities, memory, and other cognitive skills. Safe and affordable ways to prevent or slow the age-related loss of brain health are greatly needed.

Past studies have linked hearing loss to the development of dementia. So, treating hearing loss may be a way to slow or prevent brain problems. A new study tested whether hearing aids could help.

Researchers recruited nearly 1,000 older adults with substantial hearing loss. Half of them were given hearing aids. The other half received an education program about healthy aging. The researchers then measured cognitive decline over the next three years.

Participants who received hearing aids found that their ability to communicate improved. Those in the other group saw no improvement. Overall, both groups had similar rates of cognitive decline. However, people at increased risk of developing dementia, such as those with diabetes or high blood pressure, benefited most from the hearing aids. Among these, the people with hearing aids had about half the rate of cognitive decline as those who had similar risks but didn’t get hearing aids.

“Hearing loss is very treatable in later life,” says Dr. Frank Lin from Johns Hopkins University. “We recommend for general health and well-being that older adults have their hearing checked regularly and any hearing issues properly addressed.”