A recent study highlights the use of hearing aids to prevent dementia

Published: Aug. 8, 2023 at 9:36 PM CDT
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - Researchers from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Maryland found in a study that hearing aids could help lower the risk of dementia in older adults.

Dr. Rebecca Younk, an audiologist with Beltone Hearing Aid Center in Eau Claire, said the findings from the study in Baltimore are worth listening to.

“For individuals that were more at risk of developing cognitive decline later in life, there was a 48% reduction when they were fit with hearing aids,” said Dr. Younk.

The study looked further into the correlation between hearing loss and dementia. Dr. Younk agreed with the findings of hearing aids being able to help lower the risk of cognitive decline, and said it may work better the earlier hearing loss can be diagnosed.

“And as soon as we see that we’re at a period that they need to have hearing technology to help their hearing, then we want to start that process before there’s any other cognitive issues we need to deal with,” said Dr. Younk.

Nicole Weber, the executive director of Azura Memory Care Center in Eau Claire, said the study highlights how crucial it is to catch the early signs of hearing loss if it means preventing cognitive decline down the road.

“Maybe it’s like ringing in the ears, get them to get them to an audiologist, see if they’ve got something going on, you know, maybe get them some hearing aids to help them feel like they would be more comfortable to be in a social setting that they would maybe try to withdraw from,” said Weber.

She said that isolation is a red flag for cognitive decline, and agreed that hearing aids could help with keeping those at risk more engaged with the people around them.

“If it’s taking care of your ears and that’s one of those things that could give you a leg up on prevention. I think all of this type of information is just really impressive when they can link things like that together,” said Weber.

Dr. Younk said hearing loss could lead to mental health issues with the person not being able to communicate with anyone and eventually losing interest in trying.

“You’re isolated and you withdraw and you’re less active. And just don’t keep your mind stimulate it like you did before, because it’s just not fun anymore to go out because you’re missing so much of what your loved ones are saying,” said Dr. Younk.

She said hearing loss is gradual, and it could be worth getting your ears checked periodically to see if there is a need for a hearing aid.

Dr. Younk also works in Minnesota, where hearing aids are legally required to be covered by health insurance companies. She did say however, no such law exists in Wisconsin.