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. 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.
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.”
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