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Wearing hearing aids linked to slower decline in thinking and memory

A new study has found that hearing loss can increase the risk of a precursor to dementia, called mild cognitive impairment (MCI) – but this increased risk is not present in people who wear hearing aids.

MCI is a condition involving thinking and memory problems that are not bad enough to disrupt daily life. Around 20% of people over 65 have MCI and, while some people’s abilities remain at this level, 10-15% of those with MCI go on to develop dementia.

A research team investigated the link between hearing aids, cognitive decline, and progression to MCI, building on the team’s previous paper, which found that people with MCI who wore their hearing aids were less likely to develop dementia. Read the previous paper on the Alzheimer’s & Dementia Journal website.

The study, by Ulster University, Dementia Platform UK (DPUK) and others was published in the Alzheimer’s & Dementia journal. It found that people with hearing loss were at higher risk of developing MCI than people with normal hearing. However, people with hearing loss who wore their hearing aids had a significantly reduced risk of MCI – in fact there was no difference between participants with no hearing loss and those with hearing loss who wore their hearing aids. Read the study on the Alzheimer’s & Dementia Journal website.

We commented on this study, which adds to the growing body of research highlighting the value of following up any concerns about your hearing and getting the right treatment and support.

Crystal Rolfe, RNID’s Associate Director responsible for our charity’s health programme, said:

Our charity wants to encourage people to take better care of their hearing. We welcome these new findings showing how vitally important this is.

Building on the team’s earlier research, highlighting how wearing hearing aids may slow the progression of dementia, this observational study’s findings suggest wearing hearing aids may also slow the development of mild cognitive impairment (MCI), which can be a precursor to dementia. Very encouragingly, their results suggest that people who wear their hearing aids are no more likely to develop MCI than people without hearing loss. We echo DPUK’s call for further clinical research to confirm these findings.

This latest study and similar research demonstrate the strong benefits of people taking action as early as possible if they have concerns about their hearing, by getting their hearing checked and wearing hearing aids if they need to. As a first step, people can use our free, quick and easy digital hearing check.”

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