Physician Partner Resources
Hearing Aids – Do More Than Just Help With Hearing!
A study performed at the Washington University School of Medicine found that there was a positive correlation between the risk of falling in seniors and hearing loss. Although the subject number was small, these individuals performed better on balance tests when they were using their hearing aids binaurally. It is suspected that the loss of hearing sensitivity may result in a decrease in the person’s proprioception and therefore increased risk of falling.
A study done at Johns Hopkins suggests that seniors with hearing loss are more likely to develop dementia than their normal hearing peers. Although the reason is unknown, investigators suggest a common pathology may underlie both. It is possible that the “strain of decoding sounds over the years may overwhelm the brains of people with hearing loss. This may leave them more vulnerable to dementia.” The social isolation that hearing loss can create may be an added risk factor for dementia. Studies have also linked hearing loss and other medical conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and cerebrovascular disease.
More research is needed to study the effect of hearing aid use on the risk of cognitive decline. The new digital technology in hearing aids can certainly be used to address the loss of hearing sensitivity. Research shows that individuals with hearing loss wait on average 7 years before acquiring hearing aids! We need to mitigate the hearing impaired person’s sense of social isolation and ensure they stay as active as possible while living with hearing loss. We need to encourage people to try hearing aids out sooner!