Older adults who use hearing aids may be less likely to develop depression, anxiety, and dementia for at least three years after a hearing loss diagnosis compared with those who do not begin using hearing aids, according to a study published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. In addition, these individuals appear less likely to get injured in a fall.
“By providing enhanced hearing input, HAs [hearing aids] may facilitate greater social engagement, lower levels of effort to recognize sounds and speech, lower levels of depression or anxiety symptoms, higher levels of physical balance, and greater feelings of independence and self-efficacy,” wrote Elham Mahmoudi, Ph.D., and colleagues at the University of Michigan.
Mahmoudi and colleagues examined insurance claims data from 114,862 adults aged 66 and older who received a hearing loss diagnosis between 2008 and 2013. All the adults included in the analysis remained on the same coverage—a Medicare managed care plan that includes partial coverage for hearing aids—for at least three years after receiving the diagnosis of hearing loss.
The analysis showed that about 11% of women and 13% of men diagnosed with hearing loss began using hearing aids. Over the next three years, the adults who used hearing aids had an 18% reduced risk of being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s/dementia, 11% reduced risk of being diagnosed with anxiety or depression, and a 13% reduced risk of having an injurious fall compared with adults without hearing aids.
“Although [hearing aids] are expensive, the medical costs of many conditions that could be prevented or delayed by using [hearing aids] are substantially more expensive,” the authors concluded. “Any delay in diagnosis of [Alzheimer’s] or dementia could not only lead to large cost savings, but also improve the health and well-being of older adults.”
To read more about this topic, see the American Journal of Psychiatry article “Sensation and Psychiatry: Linking Age-Related Hearing Loss to Late-Life Depression and Cognitive Decline.”