Hearing aids may do more than help you hear sound better. They help you live a healthier, more joyful life. Research indicates that one of the many perks of hearing aids is the ability to improve your mental and cognitive health.
Benefits of hearing aids
In a 2020 study, a survey of over 20,000 older adults, found that people who had severe hearing loss that didn’t wear hearing aids were more likely to say they were in poor health and less likely to leave home or exercise regularly. The same was not true for those who wore hearing aids—even if their loss was severe. People who wore hearing aids were also less likely to report depression.
Currently, 48 million people in the U.S. are dealing with hearing loss. Living with untreated hearing loss can do more harm than initially thought, and those who get treatment see improvements in all areas of their lives, including:
- Better balance
- Less risk of falls
- Improved confidence
- Enhanced focus
- Increased ability to learn
- Increased cognitive and mental health
Hearing aids and improved cognitive health
One meta-analysis of 11 studies with 568 participants that studied the corrilation between hearing rehabilitation and short-term cognitive test score changes showed a 3 percent improvement in short-term cognitive test scores after using hearing aids.
What’s the connection?
Although researchers are unsure of the exact mechanisms for the correlation between mental and cognitive decline and hearing loss, several theories exist, including:
- Hearing loss makes the brain work harder, taxing resources for memory and concentration.
- A decrease in the brain’s “gray matter” could lead to a decline in brain cells and an inability to process sound.
- People with untreated hearing loss are more likely to suffer from isolation and lack of socialization, which has been shown to accelerate cognitive decline and dementia.
“When you have hearing loss, the signals coming in through your ears and getting sent to your brain are degraded, so the brain has to work hard to make sense of them,” says Maria Wynens, an Atlanta-based audiologist. “But the brain has a finite amount of energy, so at some point, it will have to pull energy from other places, such as memory, thinking, and concentration. In contrast, when you can hear, “it frees up resources in the brain that can be used for cognitive function,” says HESP Assistant Professor Samira Anderson.
Hearing aids and improved wellbeing
Hearing disorders are linked with depression. The National Council on Aging survied 2,300 hearing-impaired adults aged 50 and older found that those with untreated hearing loss are more suceptable to battling depression and anxiety than those hearing aid wearers. Among those with severe hearing loss, 30 percent of non-users of hearing aids fessed up to sad feelings, compared to 22 percent of hearing aid users.
One possibility: People who are hearing impaired are much less likely to participate in social activities. “We’re community animals,” says Jackie Clark, a clinical audiologist and clinical professor of audiology at the University of Texas at Dallas. “Isolation leads to loneliness — which leads to depression.”
Hearing aids and improved balance
It’s common for people with hearing loss to experience balance problems because the auditory and vestibular systems are located in the inner ear; if one system is damaged, the other is too.
The inner ear contains the cochlea, which helps you hear, and the semicircular canals, which help you balance.
So as you can see, hearing aids span far beyond just increasing sounds. They can improve your mental health, help slow cognitive decline, improve your mood and social interactions, and help keep you up and mobile. If you have been on the fence about getting hearing aids, we hope this helps with your decision. But the first step is to call and schedule your no-cost consultation with Salem Audiology Clinic.