A strong connection has been made between taking care of your hearing, eyesight and a slower rate of cognitive decline. That’s from a team of academics at the University of Manchester in the UK. According to the team, led by Dr. Piers Dawes and Dr. Asri Maharani, the decline in brain function is reduced as soon as steps are taken to improve hearing and eyesight. When cataract surgery was undertaken, the rate of decline halved. Even more impressively, it reduced by 75% after hearing aids were used.
Making use of data collected by the University of Michigan as part of a wider study, the UK academics investigated 2,000 older Americans, who had had their hearing measured nine times in eighteen years. Their cognition was analyzed using a standard range of cognition tests like word-recall. Two measurements were taken – one after the words were spoken aloud, and another after the participants were distracted briefly with another task. Their performance was evaluated over eighteen years, and showed a 75 percent slower rate of decline for those who wore wearing hearing aids compared to those who did not.
A separate study by the same team recorded similar levels of slowed decline. This one looked at 5,000 adults aged 60-69, just over two-fifths of them having had cataract surgery and the rest having no cataract symptoms. In those with cataracts, their cognitive decline slowed by half over thirteen years of testing after the surgery, to the extent that it was almost equal to those who had no cataracts.
Although the researchers stress that cognitive decline is almost inevitable with the passing of time, the key takeaway is that certain procedures could slow it down significantly. But the findings aren’t enough to confidently assert that there is a direct link, according to Dr. Maharani:
Age is one of the most important factors implicated in cognitive decline. We find that hearing and vision interventions may slow it down and perhaps prevent some cases of dementia, which is exciting- though we can’t say yet that this is a causal relationship.
How might we increase our chances of cognitive decline if we don’t take care of our eyes and ears?
The brain: There are several reasons why cognitive decline is influenced by your vision and hearing. One argument is that stimulation of brain by these senses might be instrumental in keeping certain areas of the brain active. Without this activity, these parts of the brain atrophy from a lack of use. It makes sense then that If you restore these connections, then more parts of your brain will stay active.
Social isolation: The more common explanation for cognitive decline is psychological. The argument is that those who hear less are less likely put themselves in social situations which makes them less likely to connect with loved ones. This triggers a cycle of loneliness that leads to more cognitive decline, as parts of the brain usually stimulated by conversation aren’t stimulated often enough.
Some even say that loneliness is more accurate a predictor of early cognitive decline than obesity, so you should watch out to see if your family and friends are more reclusive than usual. Social isolation and cognitive decline raise the risk for developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Benefits of hearing aids
One of the first suggestions from the researchers is to get hearing aids, should you require them. They can make an immediate positive impact on your life. Hearing aids are equipped with speech recognition features which help you hear conversations in a loud room. Hearing loss makes it hard to distinguish speech patterns, especially with similar speech sounds like ‘p’ and ‘b’, or ‘th’ and ‘s’. It can also make it tricky to hear sounds in the higher frequencies, such as ‘s’ or ‘f’. Modern hearing aids make it easier to hear these sounds, which makes it easier to confide in your best friend while dining in a busy restaurant. Being unable to hear others in noisy places is one of the main reasons why those with hearing loss often retreat from their social lives, so if they are able to participate socially again, loneliness becomes less of a burden on their lives.
Reflecting on his study, Dr. Dawes said: “These studies underline just how important it is to overcome the barriers which deny people from accessing hearing and visual aids.”
But the biggest barriers are often built by the individuals themselves. If you are in doubt, get your hearing and eyes checked before lasting damage might be done to your social life, your emotional well-being, and eventually, your mental capacity.
Contact Worth Hearing to start treating your hearing loss
If your hearing is not what it once was, and you find that this is interfering with your life, there are many solutions available to you. Hearing aids make it possible to once again connect with loved ones and enjoy your favorite activities. Make an appointment for a comprehensive hearing exam with Worth Hearing today.