New York, Apr 26 (PTI) Older adults who use hearing aids may perform significantly better in cognitive tests than those who do not use one despite having poor hearing, scientists, including one of Indian-origin, have found.
The researchers also found that cognitive function was directly related to hearing ability in participants who did not use a hearing aid.
More than half of adults over age 75 have hearing loss, yet less than 15 per cent of the hearing impaired use a hearing aid device.
Previous studies have shown that the hearing-impaired elderly have a higher incidence of fall- and accident-related death, social isolation, and dementia than those without hearing loss.
Studies have also demonstrated that hearing aid use can improve the social, functional and emotional consequences of hearing loss.
“We know that hearing aids can keep older adults with hearing loss more socially engaged by providing an important bridge to the outside world,” said Anil K Lalwani, professor at at Columbia University Medical Centre (CUMC).
“In this study, we wanted to determine if they could also slow the effects of ageing on cognitive function,” said Lalwani.
The study included 100 adults with hearing loss between the ages of 80 and 99. Of the participants, 34 regularly used a hearing aid.
Audiometry tests were performed to measure the degree of hearing loss. Cognitive function was evaluated by the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE), in which participants give vocal responses to verbal commands.
Executive function was also assessed with the Trail Making Test, Part B (TMT-B), which does not have a verbal or auditory component.
Hearing aid users, who had worse hearing than non-users, performed significantly (1.9 points) better on the MMSE. Among non-users, participants with more hearing loss also had lower MMSE scores than those with better hearing.
Although hearing aid users performed better than non-users on the TMT-B, the difference was not statistically significant. In addition, TMT-B scores were not correlated with hearing level.
“Our study suggests that using a hearing aid may offer a simple, yet important, way to prevent or slow the development of dementia by keeping adults with hearing loss engaged in conversation and communication,” said Lalwani.
The study was published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry. PTI MHN SAR SAR