A new study shows that treating hearing loss may mean a lower risk of dementia.

Hearing loss may increase the risk dementia, but the use of hearing aids reduced the risk of developing it, so it is similar to those without hearing loss, according to the study, published Thursday in The Lancet.

The researchers followed more than 437,000 people in a cohort from the UK Biobank, a large biomedical database and research resource that follows long-term residents. The study said they looked at each person’s risk of developing dementia, self-reported use of hearing aids and medical records to see if the person had dementia.

“The evidence confirms that hearing impairment may be the most significant modifiable risk factor for dementia in middle age,” study author Dongshan Zhou, a professor at Shandong University in China, said in a statement. “Our study provides the best evidence to date to suggest that hearing aids can be a minimally invasive and cost-effective treatment to mitigate the potential impact of hearing loss on dementia.”

The research took into account other factors, including loneliness, social isolation, and depression, but found that untreated hearing loss still had a strong association with dementia.

“The paper also explores some of the possible reasons for how hearing aids work, and tends to (favor) the idea that they are effective because they reduce the cognitive effort involved in hearing and/or reduce the effects of sensory deprivation if hearing aids work,” said Tom Denning, professor of dementia research at the University of Nottingham in the UK. United, in a statement He was not involved in the research.

The 2020 Lancet Commission on Dementia Prevention, Intervention and Care noted that hearing loss may be associated with around 8% of dementia cases, but this study found that the use of hearing aids reduced risk to similar levels for people without hearing loss. .

The results support the results from December A meta-analysis published in JAMA Neurology that people with hearing loss who wore assistive devices performed 3% better on short-term cognitive scores.

said Denning, who said he recently started wearing hearing aids Hope these results It will help him to take better care of patients.

He said, “We need to use studies like this to encourage the public not to be embarrassed about hearing problems, and to seek evaluation and treatment sooner rather than later.”

With both hearing loss and dementia, acting sooner is better, said Liz Hamlin, director of public policy for the Hearing Loss Association of America.

“Early adoption of hearing aids can help people keep their jobs, communicate better at home with family and friends, and … stay[in]their active communities,” she said.

Many adults need hearing aids, but don’t use them enough, said Dr. Karina de Souza, a postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology at the University of Pretoria in South Africa. She was the lead author of a new study looking at over-the-counter hearing aids.

“A recent study showed that only 15% of adults in the United States with hearing loss use a hearing aid,” de Souza said. “There are many possible reasons why people choose not to get hearing aids, but one of the issues has been the accessibility and affordability of the devices.”

But de Souza’s study offers hope for greater access.

This small preliminary study, published Thursday in JAMA Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery, found that a self-fitting, over-the-counter hearing aid can be as good an option for some people as those fitted by an audiologist.

Its findings follow the US Food and Drug Administration’s decision in August to allow people with mild to moderate hearing loss to purchase hearing aids online or without a prescription.

De Sousa added in an email: “The creation of the OTC (over-the-counter) hearing aid category by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) opens up a new set of options for people with hearing loss.

Hamlin said the American Hearing Loss Association continues to support multiple approaches to addressing hearing loss.

She added that some people may find an over-the-counter hearing aid that works for them, but others may need the help of a healthcare professional.

“These devices are very new,” Hamlin said. “It’s great to hear that at least this device tested[in the study]provides such a benefit.”

Still, she advises people to do their homework and consider their own needs first — and encourages them to use her organization’s online resources — which can help decide if you need a hearing aid, what to look for in one and what questions to ask them. Your doctor – before buying.

“One thing to remember is that over-the-counter hearing aids are not a one-size-fits-all option,” De Sousa added. “If you do not meet the specific criteria for wearing over-the-counter hearing aids, I recommend seeking help from a qualified audiologist.”

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