Though more than 35 million Americans, or 11.3% of the entire US population, suffer from varying degrees of hearing loss, according to the 2008 Kochkin survey more than 25 million do not use a hearing aid even when it can directly benefit them. Hearing aid benefits surpass just helping you hear more efficiently, with new studies showing links between sensorineural hearing loss and decline in cognitive and neurological abilities in older patients, and the correlation between hearing aid use and improved cognition in the forms of improved working memory, reaction time, and concentration in adults with hearing loss, and improved cognitive, social, and emotional development in children.
How Hearing Loss is Linked to Cognitive Decline
Hearing loss has shown links to cognitive decline in deaf or hard of hearing youth and older adults, with one meta-analysis analyzing 11 different studies dating as recently at 2016 concluding that older people with moderate to severe hearing loss had a “29 to 57 percent greater risk of cognitive impairment than those with normal hearing.” This cognitive impairment can range from working memory to the ability to concentrate, and even lead to a greater risk of dementia.
Not only does hearing loss affect older patient’s cognitive abilities, but it is also responsible for declines in cognitive and neurological development due to lack of auditory stimulation to the brain in children, stifling speech acquisition, social development, and academic performance. 25-35% of children who suffer from hearing loss are at risk of failing at least one grade level, and report symptoms of depression and anxiety at much higher rates than their hearing peers, highlighting the difficulties cognitive impairment can cause when treatment such as hearing aids are not properly utilized.
Hearing Aids and Cognitive Benefits
For both old and young alike, hearing aid use can help cognitive development stay on track in children and reduce decline in older patient’s cognitive abilities by keeping the brain stimulated with important sounds. A 2019 study by Samira Anderson PhD. for the Hearing Health Foundation found just that, analyzing 36 participants with mild to severe hearing loss and testing their cognitive function after wearing hearing aids over a six month period. Anderson found that wearing hearing aids had increased her participant’s working memory standard score by an average of 6 points, concluding that “improved auditory perception frees up resources that can then be allocated to cognitive tasks, such as working memory.”
How You Can Experience Cognitive Benefits
Getting you or your child’s hearing tested by a licensed hearing professional is the best way to determine the type and severity of hearing loss and treatment options. Anderson’s research has found reliably wearing hearing aids when required and ensuring further damage is prevented can help halt cognitive decline by helping free up crucial resources for cognitive tasks in adults, while multiple studies find hearing aid use can help keep crucial cognitive development on track in children. For those 35 million Americans with hearing loss, the benefits of hearing aid use in combatting cognitive are clear.
To learn more about hearing aids and hearing loss, please feel free to contact our office. We are happy to answer any of your questions and discuss your needs with you.