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Hearing Aids Are One of the “Secrets of Cognitive Super-Agers”

More studies are focusing on a new group: super-agers. Super-agers refer to people who are in their 70s and older who have the mental and/or physical capacities of someone who is decades younger. Emerging research shows that people who reach the age of 100 with great brain health are likely to remain healthy for their remaining years. Fewer than 1% of Americans reach 100 years old so there is greater research interest in studying centenarians and identifying the characteristics that contribute to healthy cognitive and physical aging. 

One factor that this research has identified as a secret of cognitive super-agers is quality hearing health supported by hearing aids. 

Secrets of Cognitive Super-Agers

As more research focuses on centenarians, studies highlight the patterns that contribute to healthy aging. This includes a recent study published in January in the JAMA Network, which studied cognitive aging among healthy centenarians. Conducted by a research team at Vrije University in Amsterdam, the study included 340 participants who were cognitively healthy centenarians. Nearly 60% lived independently and the majority had great vision as well as hearing capacities.

During annual visits participants had their cognitive capacities comprehensively tested. After analyzing 4 years of follow-up data, researchers found that: 

  • cognitive trajectories only revealed only a slight decline in memory but all other cognitive domains remained stable
  • participants maintained high levels of cognitive performance despite being exposed to risk factors like Alzheimer’s

These findings reveal that participants were cognitively resilient even when they experienced increased risk of developing cognitive decline. Extensive research shows that several lifestyle factors can contribute to this resilience and healthy aging. This includes: a healthy diet, exercise, active social life, engagement in hobbies, and great hearing health.

Hearing Loss & Cognitive Health

Hearing loss not only impacts hearing capacity but also cognitive health. Extensive research shows that hearing loss increases the risk of developing cognitive decline, which accelerates the onset of conditions like Alzheimer’s. One major study that reveals this correlation was published in 2019 in the Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association. Researchers conducted an 8-year study that included 10,107 participants who were cognitively healthy when the study began. Over the course of the study, researchers found that cognitive decline was:

  • 30% higher for people with mild hearing loss
  • 42% higher for people with moderate hearing loss
  • 54% higher for people with severe hearing loss

These research findings show that not only is there a correlation between hearing loss and cognitive decline but also that the more profound the hearing loss, the greater the risk of experiencing cognitive decline. An effective and important way to mitigate this risk is to prioritize hearing health.

Hearing Aids Improve Cognitive Abilities

Hearing aids transform hearing health which is integral to maintaining cognitive capacities. These devices are designed to absorb and process sound in order to provide the auditory system ample support. This strengthens communication, improves relationships, social life, and ability to navigate daily life independently. These benefits serve cognitive health by allowing people to engage in a range of activities that strengthen (and provide energy to) the brain. Research highlights the link between hearing aids and improved cognitive abilities. 

This includes a study recently published in Science Daily (February 2020) conducted by researchers at the University of Melbourne who examined how hearing aids impact the brain. Researchers studied the use of hearing aids on nearly 100 participants and concluded that:

  • “97% of participants showed either clinically significant improvement or stability in executive function (mental ability to plan, organize information and initiate tasks)”
  • speech perception, listening, and quality of life significantly improved for nearly all of the participants

These findings show that hearing aids enhance cognitive abilities and this lowers the risk of cognitive decline. Dr. Thomas Perls, a geriatrician at Boston University, wrote about the Dutch study and highlighted factors important for healthy aging. Emphasizing the importance of hearing health, Perls states: “I can’t emphasize enough how important it is for people to optimize their ability to hear. There’s a direct connection between hearing and preserving cognitive function. Being stubborn about wearing hearing aids is just silly. Hearing loss results in cognitive loss because you miss so much. You lose touch with your environment.”

Treating Hearing Loss with Kenwood Hearing Centers

If you believe you could benefit from hearing loss treatment, make an appointment for a hearing test with Kenwood Hearing Centers today. See for yourself what hearing aids can do to improve your cognitive abilities and your overall health and wellbeing!

Posted in Age-Related Hearing Loss, Communication, Hearing Loss