Scientists have known for some time that hearing loss is associated with an increased risk of cognitive decline and dementia.
Scientists still don’t know exactly why.
One theory is that when your hearing is damaged, the brain must expend more effort to decode the sound signals it takes in, possibly at the expense of other brain functions.
Another hypothesis is that hearing loss changes the physical structure of the brain in a way that could harm memory — and some evidence from brain imaging studies supports this theory.
Hearing loss can also increase a person’s feeling of social isolation, because the condition makes it harder to communicate. And social isolation is linked to a number of health problems, including heart disease and Alzheimer’s.
A hearing aid may help, though.
According to several recently published studies in USA, when people with hearing loss use a hearing aid, it reduces their risk of dementia, depression, and falls.
However, while these studies found that for people with hearing loss, using hearing aids was associated with a lower risk of dementia, that doesn’t mean aids can prevent dementia or even reduce risks. It’s just too early to say, without the results of a randomized controlled trial.
Still, the upside of using these devices for hearing loss can be substantial. Not only (possibly?) for cognition but also (more definitely) because it does improve the quality of life, especially with communication.
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