Hearing Aids Could Slow Cognitive Decline in Later Life

Dementia is the greatest global challenge for health and social care in the 21st century. We know that the number one risk factor for dementia is aging; however, dementia is not an inevitable consequence of aging. In fact, there are risk factors for dementia where midlife hearing impairment is one of them.

In fact, hearing loss is associated with a 24% increased risk of cognitive impairment compared to normal hearing1 and compared to those with normal hearing, individuals with a mild, moderate, and severe hearing loss have a 2-, 3-, and 5-fold increased risk of dementia2.

Approximately 32% of individuals aged 55 years or older have a significant hearing impairment. The intriguing possibility is whether it might be possible to reduce the number of cases of dementia by treating hearing impairment. We at Markham Hearing Centre understand that hearing aids are very effective in improving quality of life and communication. The finding of a reduction in rate of cognitive decline following hearing aid use suggests that effective identification and treatment of age-related hearing impairment early may have a significant impact on age-associated cognitive trajectories and possibly reduce the incidence of dementia3.

It is Markham Hearing Centre’s conviction that improved hearing can improve the quality of life. Research is starting to note that hearing loss is not the inability to hear (a sensory failure) but the inability to assign accurate and correct meaning to sound (which is a cognitive process). We believe that hearing aids can improve mood and increase social interactions, quality of life, daily function and so much more4. Thus, if you have a patient that you are concerned about, please do not hesitate to make an appointment with one of our experienced Audiologists for a free consultation5. We at Markham Hearing Centre believe that addressing hearing loss should not be an afterthought but rather if treated more proactively it can deter inherent effects it has on cognition. All adults over the age of 55 years should be referred for a diagnostic Audiological Evaluation. The earlier a hearing loss is diagnosed, the earlier it can be treated. Patients with dementia should be encouraged to be screened for hearing loss as part of any assessment of cognitive function. If a hearing loss is found, assistive technology such as hearing aids can make a big difference in improving the essential cognitive functions, and overall quality of life.