Woman performs research on hearing aids and dementia

Research scientists at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine (Lin, 2013) and the National Institute of Health (NIH) have shown that untreated hearing loss (HL) significantly increases the likelihood of dementia, depression or anxiety, and injurious falls in adults. Someone with a mild 45 dB HL hearing loss is about twice as likely to have depression as someone with normal hearing.

Previous studies have found strong associations between untreated hearing loss and social isolation, dementia, injuries associated with falls, reduced quality of life and increased health care costs. More recent research study (Mahmoudi et al., 2019) have also demonstrated that the use of HAs significantly minimizes some of these negative effects, including cognitive decline.

This large-scale study investigated whether hearing aids minimize depression, dementia and risk of falls. This was a retrospective study of 114,000 adults aged 66 years and over. Data were collected over a nine-year period (2008 to 2016) based on office visits, inpatient and outpatient visits. Statistical analyses were done comparing patients with hearing loss designated as hearing aid users vs. non-users of hearing aids. In this sample, 12% of those diagnosed with hearing loss used hearing aids. The investigators reported that use of hearing aids among adults with hearing loss was associated with significantly lower risk of being diagnosed with Alzheimer disease or dementia, depression or anxiety, and injurious falls. Furthermore, researchers found significant gender and ethnic differences in hearing aid use. About 13% of the males vs 11% of females used hearing aids. About 13.6% of whites vs 9.8% of blacks and 6.5% of Hispanics used hearing aids. The researchers theorized that insurance coverage and affordability may account for some of these differences.

In addition, researchers concluded that although we have shown a relationship between use of hearing aids and reduced risk of physical and mental decline, randomized trials are needed determine whether, and to what extent, the relationship is causal.