Taking care of your hearing and your vision is central to maintaining your health, and recent studies show it also slows cognitive decline. Aging is a natural process, and with it comes cognitive decline, which happens in varying degrees. Hearing loss due to aging is a common condition. Almost one of two Americans over the age of 65 has some hearing loss – that’s a third of the population. Half of the adults over the age of 85 are experiencing hearing loss. New research shows that taking care of your eyes and your ears as you age could help keep your brain sharper for longer than previously thought.
Studies on Hearing & Vision Linked to Cognitive Decline
A joint study was conducted by the University of Michigan in the United States and the University of Manchester in England. Researchers found:
- Decline in hearing and vision can add to overall mental decline
Hearing aids can slow cognitive decline by 75%
Cataract surgery can help cognitive decline by 50%
The hearing/vision cognitive decline study was conducted on 2,000 seniors as part of the University of Michigan’s larger Health and Retirement study. Participants’ hearing abilities were measured every two years for 18 years. Participants’ cognition was measured using a range of tests including word recall. For example, 10 words were recited and then recall was measured immediately after the recitation of the words. Individuals were then asked to participate in several small tasks to distract them from the memorization. Among people who treated hearing loss with the use of hearing aids, cognitive decline was 75% slower.
Likewise, cataract surgery can slow cognitive decline by 50% according to a separate study conducted by the same team. The vision study involved 5,000 participants in their 60s with 2,068 receiving cataract surgery and 3,636 having no cataracts or surgery. In those who had cataract surgery, cognitive decline slowed down over 13 years eventually putting their mental function equal to the control group which had no cataracts.
Stimulation is the Key
Researchers surmise, although they acknowledge more research and more detailed research is needed, that the reason cognitive decline is affected by vision and hearing may be due to nerve stimulation provided to the brain. Sensory input by vision and hearing disappear if hearing and vision loss is not taken care of as people age. Nerve stimulation returns when hearing and vision are corrected.
Social isolation is a huge byproduct of untreated hearing loss. It can also occur when vision problems are untreated, but sadly, more people ignore their hearing loss than issues with vision. The average person waits three to five years to have their hearing corrected then they first note changes. People with hearing loss begin to withdraw from conversations and stop going to family social functions. Difficulties with speech recognition may make it difficult for people to engage with their loved ones. Social isolation has been listed, along with hearing loss, as a major risk factor for developing dementia. As we approach the holiday season, pay attention to reclusive signs from friends, loved ones and even yourself! It is beneficial to our cognitive abilities to remain engaged with our loved ones, our communities, and our favorite activities.
Treating Hearing Loss
The bottom line is that hearing loss leads to cognitive decline and may open up the door to a number of other health issues. The use of hearing aids to treat your hearing loss helps to reduce cognitive decline, keeps you reconnected with your loved ones, and brings other significant benefits to your overall health and well-being.
There is an assumption that hearing aids “make me look old.” However, today’s hearing aids are technological marvels and are faster, smarter, and sleeker than hearing aids of yesteryear. There are numerous models and styles of hearing aids available, with features and technologies to fit into any lifestyle.
Visit Us at South Shore Hearing Center
If you believe you have a hearing loss, contact us at South Shore Hearing Center. We provide comprehensive hearing tests and hearing aid fittings. Our team will work with you to find hearing aids that works for you. Treating hearing loss keeps you mentally sharp! Call us at South Shore Hearing Center today and schedule a hearing test.