Hearing Aids: Protecting Memory and Speech
We’ve talked before about how brain function tends to decline at a faster rate in those who suffer from hearing impairment. However, there might be a solution for protecting people with hearing issues from suffering anymore. A new study shows that the brain functions – particularly memory and speech – can be improved by wearing hearing aids.
Hearing Loss and Cognitive Functionality
Untreated hearing loss can make brain functionality worsen over time. The reason: those with a hearing impairment who don’t wear hearing aids have to work twice as hard to understand what others are saying.
“You may actually be using the majority of your cognitive resources – your brain power – in order to figure out that message,” says Jamie Desjardins, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the speech-language pathology program at The University of Texas at El Paso.
Dr. Desjardins, who led the new study, explains that hearing loss affects more than 9 million Americans over the age of 65 and 10 million Americans ages 45 to 64. However, only about 20 percent of people who actually need hearing aids wear them.
How Do Hearing Aids Help Improve Memory and Speech?
Dr. Desjardins’ study is a comparative one, focusing on Hispanics in their 50s and 60s with bilateral sensorineural hearing loss who had previously never worn hearing aids. The study tested the participants’ cognitive abilities, before and after they started using hearing aids.
The study’s findings are of great importance to those suffering from hearing impairments. After two weeks of using hearing aids, the tests showed that all of the affected cognitive abilities improved, including recalling words in working memory, selective attention, and processing speed abilities. Attention and ability to process things with some speed.
Why is an improvement in these abilities significant?
“Think about somebody who is still working and they’re not wearing hearing aids and 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 and it’s a lot more taxing. It affects their quality of life” Desjardins explained.