Hearing aids may reduce risk of dementia, ‘breakthrough’ study says
For people experiencing cognitive decline, hearing aids could reduce their risk of dementia by half, according to a first-of-its-kind medical study published in The Lancet Tuesday.
St. Paul audiologist and owner of Associate Hearing Care, Rebecca Younk, called the “ACHIEVE” study a breakthrough for people with hearing loss that are also beginning to experience cognitive decline.
The link between hearing loss and dementia is two-fold, she explained.
“There are several working theories. Basically, what we know is that when you have hearing loss, your brain is impacted, not just your ears, but your brain.”
Hearing loss actually causes “shrinkage in the brain,” Younk added. “So that will impact cognition obviously.”
When people begin to lose their hearing, they also start to socialize less and become more isolated, “And then often cognitive decline is a direct consequence,” added Starkey audiologist and chief innovation officer Dave Fabry.
The link between hearing loss and cognitive decline has been on the books for decades, he explained, but now, researchers have now linked treating hearing loss with reducing that decline.
“We say around here that hearing care is healthcare,” Fabry said. “And this study really gets to the essence of that.”
Of about 1,000 people monitored by researchers over three years, a subgroup of about 300 older adults who were already experiencing some cognitive decline revealed a breakthrough.
“They showed a monstrous effect on slowing the progression of dementia by 48%,” Fabry said. “And even that subgroup of nearly 300 people is more than any other prospective study has looked at.”
“What’s exciting about this for us is that hearing loss is something that’s treatable,” shared Melissa Tucker, the director of family services at the Alzheimer’s Association of Illinois.
“This definitely warrants more study but we’re always so encouraged when we find things that are within our control.”
“The famous line in every study is more research is required,” Fabry concluded. “But I think it’s important to understand that this reached statistical significance in a very large subject size population.”
The study also noted a significant improvement in feelings of loneliness for those fitted with hearing aids, Fabry added, also noting that several people in the subgroup that experienced a slow cognitive decline are from Minnesota.