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Hearing aid use linked to better brain function

Hearing aid use linked to better brain function
27th April 2016

New research has suggested that enabling people to hear better could have a positive impact on the functioning of their brain.

Conducted by a team at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC), the study found that older adults who used a hearing aid performed much better on cognitive tests, compared to those who didn't use a hearing aid.

These findings could be significant to those involved in elderly care as more than half of adults over the age of 75 experience some degree of hearing loss. They also highlight the importance of older people being able to engage with the local community and being as socially active as possible.

By looking at 100 adults with hearing loss - of which 39 used a hearing aid - between the ages of 80 and 99, the team were able to determine that these resources had a significant impact on their cognitive abilities.

Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) was used to measure cognitive function and all participants were required to give vocal responses to verbal commands.

The research, published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, also revealed that cognitive function was directly linked to hearing ability in people who didn't have a hearing aid.

Dr Anil K. Lalwani, professor of head and neck surgery at CUMC and otolaryngologist at New York-Presbyterian/Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital, said: "We know that hearing aids can keep older adults with hearing loss more socially engaged by providing an important bridge to the outside world."

The aim of this study was to determine whether it could also slow the effects of ageing on cognitive function, he explained.

MMSE results showed that hearing aid users, who had worse hearing than people who weren't using them, performed better.

Of participants who didn't have a hearing aid, the study found that those who had more severe hearing loss recorded lower MMSE scores than those with better hearing.

"Our study suggests that using a hearing aid may offer a simple, yet important, way to prevent or slow the development of dementia by keeping adults with hearing loss engaged in conversation and communication," said Dr Lalwani.

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