The third most prevalent chronic disease that affects the elderly is hearing loss. Hearing loss has been linked to weakened overall health including depression, loneliness, isolation, and poor physical health. Hearing loss usually goes untreated, where only 11 percent of older adults who experience hearing loss own hearing aids and about 24 percent of them do not use the devices.
Hearing loss is linked to a faster rate of cognitive decline in elderly adults, which can result in dementia. The majority of studies on cognitive decline are centered on older adults, but recent evidence showed that the onset of hearing loss that occurs in mid-life is associated with being diagnosed with dementia before the age of 60. Therefore, in mid - and later- life, hearing loss raises the risks for dementia and cognitive decline.
Prior to Hearing Aid Usage
Before receiving a hearing aid fitting, the male and female test subjects had no significant difference in hearing loss. The range of hearing loss was not connected to the person’s age. Mood and anxiety levels were within normal limits, with 17 percent of participants who reported experiencing higher anxiety and/or depression. This may partly be due to the fact that a participant’s degree of hearing loss was only mild to moderate. As a result, the effects of hearing loss on their mental health and loneliness were not as severe.
Receiving higher education has also been shown to have a protective effect against symptoms of anxiety and depression. About 44 percent of these participants reported feeling lonely. The average Health Utilities Index mark 3 (HUI3) for overall quality of life scored at 0.74 (the maximum score is 1). An analysis showed that the range of hearing loss, and a person’s age, predicted poorer executive function. Strengthening education attainment was linked to better managerial function and visual learning.
The Results After 18 Months
Cognitive function was reexamined in 37 participants 18 months after receiving their hearing aid fitting. Twenty-eight percent of the test subjects used their hearing aids for over 90 percent of their waking hours, and 31 percent of the test subjects used their device for 60-90 percent of waking hours. Speech perception in quiet environments and overall quality of life improved significantly with the majority of the group. About 57 percent of the self-reported listening disability scores significantly improved. Individuals who had high symptoms of anxiety and depression did not report experiencing either of those conditions at 18 months. Participants who were severely lonely at the beginning of the experiment were not at 18 months.
The group’s average performance improved for measures on executive function, psychomotor function, attention, working memory, and visual learning. There was no decline during the 18 months. During a follow-up, 30 percent of the follow-up test subjects were better at executive function, 67 percent were stable, and the condition of three percent worsened. There was an improvement in the working memory, visual attention, and visual learning for the female participants.
When the cognitive changes from hearing aid usage were studied, considerably greater gains in executive function were discovered in participants who used their hearing aids or assistive listening devices for over 90 percent of their waking hours, compared to those who used their devices for less than 90 percent of their waking hours. Women test subjects used their hearing aids on a more regular basis and for longer periods of time than men, at 56% vs. 33% during a span of 14-hours per day.
More gain in executive function, and improvements in three other test subsets among female participants, recommend a dose-effect of hearing aid usage on cognition. Prior studies reported this contrast in hearing aid usage between men and women. They imply that it could be because women value social communication more than men, have a greater awareness of the root causes of hearing loss, and struggle with more stress and anger as a result of hearing loss.
If you, or a loved one, are experiencing hearing loss and believe hearing aids would be helpful, please contact us at Pure Sound Hearing for a free hearing test and consultation. We offer a wide selection of hearing aid brands and styles for your listening needs.