Hearing loss is considered the third most chronic illness affecting old people around the world. The disease is associated with loneliness, depression, isolation, and poor physical health.
Doctors have however not been able to diagnose certain types of hearing loss. It is not clear whether this is a result of limited technology to diagnose or the source or lack of adequate research.
Regardless of how the loss of hearing is affecting seniors, the disease is still largely underestimated. Statistics indicate that only 11 percent of hearing loss patients own hearing loss aids. To make matters worse, 24 percent of those who own the devices don’t use them.
Hearing loss is related to a high rate of cognitive decline among the older generation. This fact was supported by the Lancet commission of experts on dementia. It is true that hearing loss is largely associated with older people.
However, recent studies have proved that middle-age cases of hearing loss are due to the diagnosis of dementia before the age of 60.
Considering the risk posed by hearing loss for the decline of cognitive ability, researchers and scientists are looking to find out whether treating hearing loss using hearing aids can help improve cognition.
The study however offers little evidence that hearing aids can help influence cognition. This could probably be as a result of various study limitations such as fewer samples, lack of objectivity, insensitive screening among others.
Method of study
99-year-old adults with hearing loss problems were recruited for the purposes of measuring cognition. Among the subjects, 67 percent had tertiary education and 71 percent of them had already retired. This meant that the cohort was highly educated.
Cognitive assessment was carried out through the Cogstate Cognitive Battery – used for measuring psychomotor functioning, working memory, visual learning, executive function, and attention. All subjects were tested by a certified audiologist for hearing loss 18 months before the study.
Before the use of hearing aid
Before fitting the hearing devices, there was no substantial difference discovered between women and men. Besides, the levels of hearing had nothing to do with age.
Additionally, the level of anxiety and mood was normal. Only 17 percent of the subjects reported having increased symptoms of anxiety.
The outcome of the study
37 subjects or participants were tested for cognition after 18 months – 17 women and 20 men. Out of this group, 28 percent wore their hearing devices almost 90 percent of their time. Subjects who had increased levels of mood and anxiety symptoms did not complain of these conditions for the 18 month period.
On the other hand, there was improvement among male participants as far as measurements for executive and psychomotor functions are concerned. Functions such as memory, attention, and learning did not decline within the 18 months of the study.
In general, the study was trying to establish how the use of hearing aids can be of help in influencing cognition.
However, researchers admit that the study had several limitations - making it difficult to rely on its findings.