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New study links hearing restorative devices to slower rate of memory decline

The use of hearing aids and cochlear implants reduced long-term cognitive decline by 19%

A new study has found an association between the use of restorative hearing devices and a reduced risk of developing dementia.

The study involved a meta-analysis of 31 studies comprising 137,484 participants to determine the long-term associations of hearing aids and cochlear implants with cognitive impairment and incident dementia.

The results, which were published in JAMA Neurology, showed the use of restorative hearing devices in participants with hearing loss reduced long-term cognitive decline by 19%, compared with their counterparts with uncorrected hearing loss. This benefit was evident for both normal baseline cognition and baseline mild cognitive impairment.

Furthermore, the use of these devices was significantly associated with a 3% improvement in cognitive test scores assessing general cognition, including an individual’s ability to problem solve.

The incidence of dementia is expected to triple by 2050 to around 150 million cases worldwide and result in up to $50bn in economic losses by 2030.

Despite the high burden of disease, no exact cure currently exists to treat dementia, making targeting preventable risk factors crucial in addressing dementia and cognitive impairment.

Previous observational studies have suggested that hearing aids may reduce the onset of dementia, possibly through decreasing cognitive load or correcting sensory deprivation in those with hearing loss, but no meta-analysis has pooled the available evidence on the cognitive benefit of restorative hearing devices to date.

The researchers from this latest study conclude that their findings add to this growing body of evidence and serve as an ‘impetus for clinicians treating patients with hearing loss to persuade them to adopt hearing restorative devices, to mitigate their risk of cognitive decline such as dementia’.

Commenting on the results of the study, Dr Susan Mitchell, head of policy at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “There’s increasingly clear evidence that people who lose their hearing as they get older are at increased risk of developing dementia. This study provides further compelling evidence of this link, but unanswered questions remain.

“... Going forward, researchers must unpick exactly how hearing loss influences the risk of developing dementia. We also need to know who is most at risk and could benefit most from interventions like hearing aids. Knowing this will help health services allocate resources and support those that need it.”

Article by
Emily Kimber

9th December 2022

From: Research



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