HEARING loss is common as people age but now new research has found wearing hearing aids may not only help older people hear better but may delay cognitive decline and improve brain function.
Hearing loss affects about 32 per cent of people aged 55 years, and more than 70 per cent of people aged over 70 years and has been identified as a modifiable risk factor for dementia.
University of Melbourne researchers tested the use of hearing aids in almost 100 adults aged 62-82 years with hearing loss.
Participants were assessed before and 18 months after having hearing aids fitted on their hearing, cognitive function, speech perception, quality of life, physical activity, loneliness, mood and medical health.
After 18 months of hearing aid use, researchers found speech perception, self-reported listening disability and quality of life had significantly improved for participants.
Most notably, 97.3 per cent of participants in this study showed either clinically significant improvement or stability in executive function - their mental ability to plan, organise information and initiate tasks.
Women, in particular, showed significant improvements in working memory - used for reasoning and decision-making - as well as most other cognitive functions assessed.
The study also found more frequent use of hearing aids was associated with greater improvements in cognitive function, and women were much more diligent at wearing the devices than men.
Study chief Investigator Julia Sarant, said improvement in cognitive function was something not usually seen in older adults.
"Although there are successful treatments for hearing loss, there is currently no successful treatment for cognitive decline or dementia," Associate Professor Sarant said.
The research was published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine.