Wearing hearing devices for age-related hearing loss may be better for maintaining brain function than not using devices, a new study suggests.

It builds on important research in recent years published in the Lancet Journal by the European Commission on Dementia Prevention, Intervention and Care, through which hearing loss emerged as the #1 Modifiable risk factor for dementia.

Researchers at the University of Exeter and King’s College London have recently found further evidence that hearing aids may help to protect the brains and reduce the risk of dementia.

In the study, two groups of people – those who wore hearing devices and those who did not – undertook annual cognitive tests over a two years period. The research was taken from the PROTECT study of 25,000 people aged 50 or over.

The group who wore hearing aids performed better in measures assessing working memory and aspects of attention than those who did not. One measure of attention demonstrated that people who used the devices showed faster reaction times than non-wearers. Scientists say this reflects concentration abilities, for example, straining to hear a sound and listening intently to someone speaking.

Dr Anne Corbett, from the University of Exeter, said: “Previous research has shown that hearing loss is linked to a loss of brain function, memory and an increased risk of dementia. Our work is one of the largest studies to look at the impact of wearing a hearing aid and suggests that wearing a hearing aid could actually protect the brain.”

Professor Clive Ballard, of the University of Exeter Medical School, said: “The message here is that if you’re advised you need a hearing aid, find one that works for you. At the very least it will improve your hearing and it could help keep your brain sharp, too.”

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