Some of us do crossword puzzles to keep our brain active and some people walk at the mall to get their exercise. While aging may slow us down in some ways, many of us remain active with our favorite activities and events. Staying active is an important part of maintaining our cognitive health. A joint study between institutions in the US and England shows that correcting vision defects and hearing loss can reduce cognitive decline by an amazing 75%!
Hearing Loss in Older Adults
Hearing loss is a common part of aging and is prevalent in the United States. Nearly two-thirds of adults over 65 experience some degree of hearing loss, and approximately 50% of adults over the age of 85 have hearing loss. Unfortunately, hearing loss is often undiagnosed and undertreated in the US, even though it is a treatable condition.
Most Americans with hearing loss wait three to five years before they seek treatment for hearing loss. The most common form of treatment is the prescription of hearing aids. These days, hearing aids are amazing pieces of tiny technology, with incredibly fast processing and excellent sound features. The use of hearing aids has been found to bring significant benefits to one’s overall health and well-being.
Study on Hearing Loss and Cognitive Abilities
A joint study on hearing loss and cognitive decline was conducted by the University of Michigan and the University of Manchester in England. It involved nearly 2,000 senior citizen participants whose hearing was measured every two years for 18 years. Cognitive abilities were measured using a range of tests. For example, a word recall test of 10 words was used. One cognition measure was taken immediately after the 10 words were recited to see how many the individual remembered. The participant was then given a series of small tasks to act as a distraction from the memorization.
The study revealed that participants with untreated hearing loss did not fare as well with memory testing as those with hearing aids. When cognitive decline was measured, those with hearing aids declined 75% less than those without hearing aids.
A separate study was done to measure cognitive decline and vision. There were 5,000 participants in the vision study and it was performed by the same team in the aforementioned study. In this study, participants were all in their 60s and 2,068 of the group of 5,000 participants had their vision corrected by cataract surgery. There were 3,636 who had no cataracts in the group of 5,000. Among participants who had cataract surgery, cognitive decline slowed down by 50% over the course of 13 years of follow-up study.
The reason cognitive decline is affected by vision and hearing may be due to the nerve stimulation provided to the brain by those sensory inputs which seem to disappear as you age. Studies imply that stimulations can be restored through the intervention of hearing aids and cataract surgery. There may also be some psychological issues involved, studies have found.
Social Isolation Hastens Cognitive Declines
Social isolation is a huge part of untreated hearing loss and people will notice their friends and loved ones withdrawing from conversations or not going to family social functions like they used to. Social isolation means that people may withdraw from events and gatherings, which can hasten the spiral of loneliness. Loneliness, which comes a lack of brain stimulation, exacerbates cognitive decline. As a matter of fact, loneliness and social isolation are more of a predictor of early death than obesity. As we approach the holiday season, it is especially important to keep close tabs on relatives and older friends to make sure they aren’t showing the signs of social reclusiveness.
Seeking Treatment for Hearing Loss
If a friend or relative is showing social withdrawal signs and seems to not be as alert to what is going on around them as they used to, urge them to get a hearing test with our team at Hearing Health. A painless hearing test can reveal whether a hearing loss is present. If one is, our team will work with you to find the best treatment solution to meet your needs. Treating hearing loss brings significant benefits, from slowing cognitive decline to ensuring that you stay connected to your life!