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Hearing health and brain health: is there a connection?

A new study shows there is a higher risk of accelerated cognitive decline due to withdrawal from social activities for individuals with hearing loss who do not actively use hearing aids.

It's widely known that as we get older, most of us experience some decline in our cognitive faculties. We tend to forget things, it takes longer to learn new things and it's harder to concentrate and focus.  This cognitive decline is usually a normal part of aging, unfortunately. We can't stop it, but there are things we can do to slow it down.

Maintain your brain: stay stimulated

According to research, by far the single most important thing we can do to maintain our brains as we age is to stay mentally engaged, through an active social life with friends, family and business associates.

Healthy hearing is a key part of staying involved with people and the world around us. But as we age, for many of us, our hearing ability declines, along with cognition. Is there a connection between hearing loss and cognitive decline? For many years, researchers have speculated about this relationship. For the first time, a new study[1] has documented hearing loss and cognitive decline among a group of nearly 4000 volunteers over a 25-year period.

Read the study

[1] Hélène Amieva, “Self-Reported Hearing Loss: Hearing Aids and Cognitive Decline in Elderly Adults: A 25-year Study," Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

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Actively using hearing aids helps keep your brain fit

What the scientists found was interesting: people with hearing loss who used hearing aids and were socially active experienced cognitive decline at a rate similar to those without hearing loss.

People with hearing loss who didn't use hearing aids had a higher risk of accelerated cognitive decline due to withdrawal from social activities. In other words, actively using hearing aids reduces the risk of cognitive decline. The scientists concluded that the key was not just their ability to hear better, but, more important was the role better hearing played in keeping them involved in life.

By helping to at least partially restore communication abilities, hearing aids may help improve mood, increase social interactions, and enable more participation in cognitively stimulating activities and consequently could slow cognitive decline.

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Get smart. Get a hearing evaluation

More than 35 million Americans suffer from hearing loss. Many of them aren't aware of it or are putting off treatment. If you're one of them, you owe it to yourself to visit a Hearing Care Professional for a hearing evaluation. Your future as an active, engaged, healthy person could depend on it.

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