According to a recent study by Jamie Desjardins, PhD, an assistant professor in the speech-language pathology program at The University of Texas at El Paso, hearing aids improve brain function in people with hearing loss.
It is known that hearing loss, if left untreated, can lead to emotional and social consequences, reduced job performance, and diminished quality of life. Recently, research has shown that untreated hearing loss also can interfere with cognitive abilities because so much mental effort is diverted toward understanding speech.
“If you have some hearing impairment and you’re not using hearing aids, maybe you can figure out what the person has said, but that comes with a cost,” said Desjardins in a recent university announcement. “You may actually be using the majority of your cognitive resources – your brain power – in order to figure out that message.”
Desjardins explained that as people age, basic cognitive skills – working memory, the ability to pay attention to a speaker in a noisy environment, or the ability to process information quickly – begin to decline. Hearing loss affects more than 9 million Americans over the age of 65 and 10 million Americans ages 45 to 64, but only about 20% of people who actually need hearing aids wear them, Desjardins said.
To explore the effects of hearing loss on brain function further, Desjardins studied a group of individuals in their 50s and 60s with bilateral sensorineural hearing loss who had previously never used hearing aids. Study participants took cognitive tests to measure their working memory, selective attention, and processing speed abilities prior to and after using hearing aids.
After two weeks of hearing aid use, tests revealed an increase in percent scores for recalling words in working memory and selective attention tests, and the processing speed at which participants selected the correct response was faster. By the end of the study, participants had exhibited significant improvement in their cognitive function.
“Most people will experience hearing loss in their lifetime,” said Desjardins. “Think about somebody who has hearing loss and is still working and they’re not wearing hearing aids. They are spending so much of their brainpower just trying to focus on listening. They may not be able to perform their job as well. Or if they can, they’re exhausted because they are working so much harder. They are more tired at the end of the day, because it’s a lot more taxing. It affects their quality of life.”
Desjardins is currently undertaking a study that focuses on the use of hearing aids by Hispanics. Research shows that only 5% of Mexican-Americans wear hearing aids. She has developed a survey to investigate their attitudes toward hearing loss. The survey will be conducted at health fairs in the community, including one at the Mexican Consulate in El Paso, Texas. Desjardins also will begin work on another study that will look at older bilingual people and their ability to understand speech.
Source: The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP)
Image credits: UTEP; © Zeninaasya | Dreamstime.com
The best thing I like about this blog is its layout and insightful information. Yes! it is true that if hearing loss left untreated, it leads to cognitive decline in most cases. Also, most people can’t afford hearing aids because of their price. Even most insurance companies do not cover hearing aid cost.
As you have mentioned it is true that if hearing loss is left untreated. The patients mental health starts to decline significantly. But then again it is costly for most the people to buy hearing aids and most insurance companies don’t cover hearing aids cost.
It was really interesting to learn that hearing aids can improve brain function. My brother is thinking about getting hearing aids. It would be really good for him to get some from a professional.
That’s interesting that people with hearing loss use so much of their brain power on trying to focus. I can see why that would make you tired without even noticing it. That’s cool that having hearing aids can help improve your brain power that much.
I had no idea that if hearing loss is left untreated then it can lead to emotional and social consequences. My father has been losing his hearing over the last few years. It may be beneficial for him to consider getting hearing aids.
what does wearing only one of your aids do to brain function. also, use headsets for TV on top of one aid because if I take both aids out I am unable to hear the phone ring or if anyone tries to talk to me. does this cause harm to my brain…. when I go to bed I hear a terrible roar in my head (not ears) which quiets down after an hour or so. what damage am I doing to my brain using the TV headset like this on top of a hearing aid.??
Would like some more information, I have tinnitus, my ears ring , the severity comes and goes on how loud it’s gets.
It’s affecting my job now because I cannot hear like my HR dept is now stating I need to be evaluated mpby an ENT Dr.. would the hearing aides help me ?
Insurance is disgusting. The insurance industry is one of the most profitable industries in the US. It is a disgrace that both Medicare and our supplemental insurances don’t cover what senior citizens need the most. What are we suppose to do in our later years, if we are lucky and don’t have any life threatening diseases, we could still end up toothless and deaf!
I see a lot of comments on the cost of hearing aids being too high. Hearing aids range in price from $500 to $5,000 each. Many providers such as Miracle Ear provide different monthly payment options ranging from $28 a month to $500 a month. Do not put your hearing problem off because of the cost of hearing aids. Schedule a free hearing exam to determine what options you and your family have to get better hearing.
You need to understand many insurance companies do NOT cover hearing aids, which is why people don’t purchase them. The are costly.
Unfortunately the uptake is similarly low in England. There is a misconception that using an aid will make your ears (brain) lazy. Studies like this are valuable because people noticing a hearing problem will typically take 10 years to take action. As an industry we need to present compelling evidence to the contrary to ensure earlier intervention.
My left ear is non-functional, and I wear a hearing aid in the right ear. Hearing in that ear is greatly diminished, also. However, without the hearing aid I would not hear. The cost of hearing aids is prohibitive, and, as hearing in the right ear lessens I am in the position of having the aid replaced to meet the new requirements. It would be so beneficial for even a percentage of the cost to be born by Medicare, or by insurance policies. My sympathies are with those who need hearing aids, and simply cannot afford them. Of the figures mentioned in your article, it would be interesting to know the number of those not using aids because they cannot afford them, instead of using the blanket number of those who don’t use aids.
I totally agree. I wear hearing aids and cannot hear without them. I guard them with my life and, at $10,000 a pair for basic aids, I cannot wear them both all the time.
I have been hearing impaired for many years and now that I’m in my 80s, do not hear at all without hearing aids. They help, but I still miss a lot. My caption phone is a blessing. Isolation can and does take over without this advantage to read what is being said. –Pat
Our clients rave about the caption phones. Often another person in the home who is experiencing hearing loss benefits too. These phones are free to anyone with documented hearing loss. Our office would be glad to assist anyone to apply for a free phone. One type needs high speed internet and the other company also needs a land line. Happy to help.
Why are people not asking the candidates why Medicare does not cover hearing aids, dentistry, and glasses. Isn’t this the time retired people need coverage in these areas the most? If we don’t qualify for MediCal/MedicAid we are fried. Hearing aids cost too much and that’s why people can’t buy them. THAT’S WHY PEOPLE DON’T WEAR THEM! Talk to your senators and congresspersons so they can talk to the candidates! It’s our right to get something back after years of work. Get involved and tell the politicians and AARP to help!
Why does Medicare/Medicaid not help cover the cost? I think that is the real reason people who need them don’t wear them.
Why won’t Medicare cover cost of hearing aids? Hearing loss is a big problem which needs to be addressed!
Medicare won’t cover hearing loss because most everyone will experience some hearing loss as they grow older. Thus this would constitute a guaranteed financial loss for Medicare.
Excellent article showing concrete evidence of improved cognitive ability for those with hearing loss through the use of hearing aids.