senior man hard of hearingAccording to a new study published in the Journal of American Geriatrics Society, hearing devices can reduce dementia risk, depression and anxiety, walking problems and falls in seniors. Nearly one in four people in the US between 65 and 74 years old have disabling hearing loss; this figure jumps to one in two over the age of 75.

Unfortunately, many people who would benefit from hearing aids do not wear them.

About the Study

Lead Researcher Elham Mahmoudi, PH.D. from the University of Michigan said, “We already know that people with hearing loss have more adverse health events and more co-existing conditions, but this study allows us to see the effects of an intervention and look for associations between hearing aids and health outcomes.”

The study, conducted at the University of Michigan Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation, looked at data from nearly 115,000 individuals over 66 years old with hearing loss. The scientists tracked participant health from one year before their diagnosis to three years after to pinpoint any new diagnoses of dementia, depression, anxiety or fall injuries.

Implications for Seniors

The researchers noticed significant differences between those with hearing loss who wore wear a hearing aid compared with those who did not. Wearing a hearing aid reduced:

  • Relative risk of being diagnosed with dementia by 18 percent
  • Relative risk of being diagnosed with depression or anxiety by 11 percent
  • Relative risk of fall-related injuries by 13 percent 

Previous research has looked into the links between hearing loss, dementia and mental health conditions. Some experts believe that social isolation, which can come with hearing loss, might result in less stimulation for the brain and overall cognitive decline.

“Though hearing aids can’t be said to prevent these conditions, a delay in the onset of dementia, depression and anxiety, and the risk of serious falls could be significant for both the patient and the costs to the Medicare system,” Mahmoudi said.
 
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