A new online study by the University of Exeter and King’s College London has revealed that wearing a hearing aid to address age-related hearing problems may eventually result in better brain function.
Called PROTECT, the study builds on recent findings by the Lancet Commission on Dementia Prevention, Intervention and Care, which indicated that hearing loss is a key risk factor for dementia.
According to the latest research, which involved 25,000 people aged 50 years and above, a hearing aid can protect the brain and potentially reduce dementia risk.
The study involved annual cognitive tests over two years in a group of people who wore hearing aids and another group who did not.
Data showed that people wearing hearing aids demonstrated better performance in measures that evaluate their working memory and attention, compared to individuals who did not wear the devices.
The researchers noted that participants with hearing aids had faster reaction times, which is said to be a reflection of concentration.
PROTECT lead Dr Anne Corbett said: “Previous research has shown that hearing loss is linked to a loss of brain function, memory and an increased risk of dementia.
“Our work is one of the largest studies to look at the impact of wearing a hearing aid, and suggests that wearing a hearing aid could actually protect the brain.”
Additional research and a clinical trial are required to validate the study findings.
University of Exeter Medical School professor Clive Ballard said: “This is an early finding and needs more investigation, yet it has exciting potential. The message here is that if you’re advised you need a hearing aid, find one that works for you. At the very least it will improve your hearing and it could help keep your brain sharp too.”