Long-Term Study Is First to Show Wearing Hearing Aids Reduces Risk of Cognitive Decline Associated with Hearing Loss

A Wake-up Call to Address Hearing Loss Now

SOMERSET, N.J.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–It is well-established that untreated hearing loss can lead to an
acceleration of cognitive problems. A just-published study in the Journal
of the American Geriatrics Society
is the first to show that wearing
hearing aids reduces cognitive decline associated with hearing loss. The
study, “Self-Reported Hearing Loss: Hearing Aids and Cognitive Decline
in Elderly Adults: A 25-year Study”, followed 3,670 adults, age 65 and
older over a 25-year period. Professor Hélène Amieva, a leading
researcher in the Neuropsychology and Epidemiology of Aging at the
University of Bordeaux, France, headed up the study which was part of
the Personnes Agèes QUID cohort (PAQUID), a cohort specifically designed
to study brain aging. Researchers compared the trajectory of cognitive
decline among older adults who were using hearing aids and those who
were not. The study found no difference in the rate of cognitive decline
between a control group of people with no reported hearing loss and
people with hearing loss who used hearing aids. By contrast, hearing
loss was significantly associated with lower baseline scores on the
Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE), a well-recognized test of
cognitive function, during the 25-year follow-up period, independent of
age, sex and education.

The early findings of the study were shared by Professor Amieva at a
professional conference sponsored by Oticon, Inc., attended by more than
1000 hearing care professionals.

“The study indicates that people with hearing loss who wear hearing aids
have the same risk for age-related cognitive decline as people without
hearing loss,” says Donald Schum, PhD, Vice President of Audiology and
Professional Practice for Oticon, Inc. “But cognitive decline is
accelerated for the people who have hearing loss and don’t use hearing
aids. With this study, we are seeing for the first time evidence that
hearing aids are a prevention against accelerated cognitive decline in
later years. That’s a powerful motivator for the more than 75% of people
with hearing loss who could benefit from hearing aids but are reluctant
to address their hearing health.”

Improving Social Interaction and Other Cognitively Stimulating

A number of studies have shown correlations between hearing loss and
greater risk of cognitive decline in older adults, including a pair of
studies out of Johns Hopkins that found hearing loss is associated with
accelerated cognitive decline and possibly also with the onset of
dementia in older adults. The vast majority of scientists in the area
have agreed that cognitive decline is likely related to the lack of
social interaction that older adults have because of their hearing loss.
The assumption has been that if people use hearing aids and thus become
socially active again or are able to maintain an appropriate level of
social activity then they would decrease their risk of a more rapid
decline in cognitive skills. The new study appears to corroborate those

The link to dementia is more complex. One of the most likely
explanations is that the cognitive decline associated with hearing loss
adds to the decline due to Alzheimer’s disease and thereby leads to
crossing the threshold for the diagnosis of dementia at an early point
in time.

“Brain First” Hearing Aid Technology

These findings add to a large body of evidence showing that technologies
used in hearing aids must be designed to minimize the mental effort that
hearing loss leads to when listening to speech in background noise. For
almost 20 years, Oticon researchers at the world renowned Eriksholm
research center have focused on BrainHearing™ technology, an approach
that carefully processes the speech signal so it is presented to the
person’s brain as clearly and accurately as possible – the way the brain
is best able to understand it. With more sound information, the brain
doesn’t have to work as hard to understand what is being said. The
result is a clearer, more effortless listening experience. For people
who wear hearing aids, this means less demanding mental processing
throughout the day so they can engage more actively in everyday life.

“The transition from sound to meaning happens in the brain,” explains
Dr. Schum. “When hearing is compromised, such as with hearing loss, the
sound signal that the brain is accustomed to processing is different and
it takes more effort to fill in the blanks. This is why hearing loss can
be so tiring and can drain the mental energy people need for everyday
activities. People may respond by withdrawing socially because it’s just
too exhausting to try to keep up. Social isolation and the resulting
depression and health issues have long been recognized as increased risk
factors for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.”

Hearing Care is Health Care™

Hearing loss is the most common chronic health condition affecting older
adults. The PAQUID study underscores the importance of addressing the
challenges of under-diagnosis and under-treatment of hearing loss.

According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication
Disorders, one in eight people in the US (13 percent, or 30 million)
aged 12 years or older has hearing loss in both ears. Among adults aged
70 and older with hearing loss who could benefit from hearing aids,
fewer than one in three (30 percent) has ever used them. Fewer adults
aged 20 to 69 (approximately 16 percent) who could benefit from wearing
hearing aids have ever used them. Even among people who eventually get
treatment for hearing loss, many delay seeking help for an average of 7
to 10 years from the time they could benefit from hearing aids.

“This study should be a wake-up call for people who are considering
doing something about treating their hearing loss but have been
delaying,” says Dr. Schum. “It’s not just about hearing well today, it’s
about the long-term effects of untreated hearing loss.”

For more information about hearing health, hearing loss and BrainHearing
technology, visit brainhearing.com.


TagTeam Global
Sara Coulter, 201-447-5531
Cell: 201-819-1403