Hearing aids are strongly linked to a slower rate of age-related cognitive decline, according to new research released this month by the University of Manchester. The research suggests that the rate of measured cognitive decline was 75% less following the adoption of hearing devices.

The research was based on American data which involved 2040 participants surveyed between 1996 and 2014. Cognitive decline was measured by testing memory, asking participants to recall 10 words immediately and then at the end of the exercise. The researchers compared the rates of decline before and after the patients started wearing a hearing device.

The Manchester University academic who compiled the findings, Dr Dawes, stated that although the research doesn’t prove a “causal relationship”, it does show that “hearing and vision interventions may slow down [cognitive decline] and perhaps prevent some cases of dementia,” adding that these new studies “underline just how important it is to overcome the barriers which deny people from accessing hearing and visual aids”.

The original research from America was even more emphatic in its conclusion about the benefit of hearing technology in the fight against dementia, stating that “providing hearing aids or other rehabilitative services for hearing impairment much earlier in the course of hearing impairment may stem the worldwide rise of dementia”.

These findings follow a growing body of research, from all over the world, which shows the link between hearing loss and cognitive decline, as well as the preventative role of hearing technology. The British and Irish Hearing Instrument Manufacturers Association (BIHIMA) has compiled some of the other research here.

BIHIMA is also concerned, however, that many people are completely unaware of the link between hearing loss and cognitive decline. In the recent Eurotrak research, for example, only 11% of those surveyed think that dementia could be related to hearing loss. See the research here (page 37).

“There is a clearly a need for greater public awareness about the effect of hearing loss on cognitive decline,” said the BIHIMA Chairman, Paul Surridge. “It is staggering that we are seeing so much indisputable evidence about the link, and the benefit of hearing technology, and yet so little recognition by policy makers. Hearing technology could be the key to stemming the rising tide of dementia, one of the biggest societal challenges of our age.”

The University of Manchester report can be accessed here: https://www.manchester.ac.uk/discover/news/hearing-and-visual-aids-linked-to-slower-age-related-memory-loss/

The contributing research from the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society can be accessed here: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/jgs.15363