A recent international study published in JAMA correlates how hearing aids decrease the risk of developing cognitive decline. Before this finding, a relatively dated Johns Hopkins study from 2014 was the most tangible link between hearing loss and cognitive impairment, only illustrating a strong comorbidity existed between the two.
This topic is particularly noteworthy in the Phoenix area and Arizona as a whole. The Alzheimer’s Association estimated that cases in Arizona would increase from 150,000 in 2020 to 200,000 by 2025, a 33% increase that is the fastest in the nation. In our Scottsdale clinic and other Beltone Arizona locations outside the Phoenix metro too, we see people with cognitive decline and hearing loss simultaneously every day, often multiple times daily. Thus, it’s crucial for us to educate people on the effects of not treating hearing loss; comorbidities such as heart disease and diabetes also link to hearing loss, aside from cognitive impairment and dementia.
The new JAMA study provides clear evidence about the causal relationship of hearing aids reducing risk of cognitive decline, which we now weave into our patient education for Arizonans. Whether patients suspect only a potential mild hearing loss or suffer from severe hearing damage – everyone needs to know about this new data when considering next steps for treatment.
The Johns Hopkins study showed, compared to people with no hearing loss – a mild hearing loss doubled the risk of cognitive decline, a moderate loss tripled the risk, and a severe loss increased it fivefold. Further, the new JAMA study shows hearing aids reduce the risk of cognitive decline by 19%, a significant finding.
Regardless of having any degree of hearing loss, it’s important anyone 60 years old gets a hearing test to use as a baseline for years to come – enabling potential patients and their hearing instrument specialists to more easily treat and get ahead of possible cognitive decline. Also, if someone suspects any degree of hearing loss, these new findings show the obvious need to get hearing checked right away for this same reason.
Kory Castro is practice owner and a board-certified hearing instrument specialist at Beltone Arizona, with clinics located throughout the state and part of the nation’s largest network of hearing healthcare providers.