Cognitive Decline and Age
Have you ever said to yourself, “I can’t hear myself think?”
This usually indicates that there’s too much background noise, which can make it difficult to focus. Many studies have shown that there is a link between hearing abilities and cognitive function in older adults. The recognition of complex sounds, like music and speech, includes more than just the detection of these sounds and being able to distinguish them from each other. What ties cognition and hearing together has only recently become a primary focus in research studies.
One result from a research study showed that age-related cognitive decline is higher among adults who have hearing loss, than those with healthy hearing abilities. Overall conclusions show the negative side of hearing loss affects more than just your quality of life. Learning about the connection between hearing loss and the impact it has on cognitive abilities can lead to early intervention, along with practical solutions that can benefit a person’s well being.
Links between Cognition and Hearing
Ethnicity and Race
A recent study focused on the connection between hearing loss and cognition concerning ethnicity and race. Researchers studied cases of dementia and hearing loss among an ethnically diverse neighborhood in New York City.
There were 1,881 participants (40% Hispanic, 31% African American, and 29% Caucasian). There were 377 who developed an episode of dementia during an average of 7.4 years of follow-up visits. There was a 1.69 greater risk of dementia in those who had hearing loss, than in those with normal hearing abilities. When it was ordered by ethnicity and race, the hearing loss raised the risk of an episode of dementia only for African American participants. The risks of dementia for Hispanics and Caucasians who had hearing loss was higher for individuals who previously had normal hearing.
The exact reason for the higher risks of dementia in elderly African American adults who suffer from hearing loss is unknown. In tests that were conducted, spectral-temporal processing, where listeners were asked to distinguish changes in a spectral-ripple and compare brief (0.5 sec.) spectro-temporal frequency patterns indicated lower performance in African American participants than Caucasian participants. Their performance was compared with global cognition which was evaluated by utilizing a battery of 12 neuropsychological tests, explicitly with scores on working memory tests.
The authors of the test indicated that dissimilarities in the response strategies by African American and Caucasian participants in tasks with high feelings of uncertainty may have affected the performance differences between the groups. A different study showed that African American adults demonstrate a higher resilience to age-related hearing loss. The link between hearing loss and cognition in African American adults is more complicated than simply associating them together as a group.
A study found that older adults who reported their own hearing loss and who wore hearing aids had the same pace of cognitive decline as those who had healthy hearing abilities. Those who suffered from hearing loss and did not wear hearing aids had a much higher rate of cognitive decline. The study was based on 3,414 participants during a 25-year study. This study proves that a person’s cognition can be supported with the use of hearing aids.
In another study, people who did not recognize that they had hearing loss, or did not feel comfortable admitting it, were not properly categorized. Also, hearing aid usage was only addressed during the initial study and did not show the frequency or consistency of use over time. The faster rate of cognitive decline for those with hearing loss showed no dissimilarities from those who had healthy hearing abilities, after controlling psychosocial variables. The study observed that it was unlikely that hearing aid usage directly affects cognitive abilities, but it speculated that depression and social isolation, which is linked to hearing loss, is what may diminish cognitive abilities.
Effects of Hearing Loss
In a study, those who had a hearing impairment, and the people they communicated with, listed the complaints they had. In addition, problems that were directly linked to hearing (communication and listening) the individual who was hard of hearing and those who they communicated with had a number of complaints in regard to social interactions and their own well-being.
Engaging with others in a social setting and self-appraisal are common aspects of cognitive decline in older adults. These actions also play hearing and cognitive functions in elderly adults. There is not a complete understanding of the link between hearing and cognition, there is information on mediating elements which inform experts on ways to intervene and preserve the hearing that these individuals still have.
Hearing aids, along with a healthy brain, diet, and exercise are effective means to help with social situations and the overall health of someone who has hearing loss.
If you, or a loved one, suffer from hearing loss and believe using hearing aids would be beneficial, please contact us at Pure Sound Hearing Aids for a free hearing test and consultation.