I often am asked by patients who are candidates for hearing devices if they would have to wear those aids at all times. The answer is absolutely yes! Even if you are just sitting at home in quiet, there are still sounds in your environment that are stimulating your brain.
It can take time for you to become accustomed to new sounds that you may have not heard in a while. This brain stimulation is most important when it comes to cognition and understanding. In order to achieve this, hearing aids must be worn all the time, around excessive noise levels and during any water activities, but not while sleeping.
A study conducted over 25 years, involving individuals age 65 and older, found that untreated hearing loss was associated with greater cognitive decline (Amieva et al., 2015). We also know that hearing loss has a significantly negative impact on quality of life. Individuals with hearing loss tend to isolate themselves more, miss out on important conversations, and even feel embarrassed when they mishear what is being said.
Conclusive study outcomes have proved individuals with untreated hearing loss are at a higher risk of dementia (five times greater) than individuals with normal hearing (Lin et al., 2011). A prominent finding from this study revealed that those with hearing loss who wore hearing aids had better outcomes, and a lower rate of cognitive decline, than those who did not. The risk of dementia with untreated hearing loss is two times more likely for mild hearing loss, three times more likely for moderate hearing loss and five times more likely for a severe hearing loss.
The best way to prevent this cognitive decline is to keep the auditory pathways to the brain stimulated, using appropriately fit hearing devices that will allow speech signals to reach the brain with good integrity.
By Dr. Sarah Licht, contributing writer and provider at North Georgia Audiology in Woodstock.