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Hopeful News for People at High Risk for Cognitive Decline

March 13, 2024

This just in—even more evidence to support that hearing aids can be beneficial to our brain health: A new study found that, for older adults at risk for cognitive decline, hearing aids were shown to reduce the risk by nearly half. 

The study, known as the Aging and Cognitive Health Evaluation in Elders study—or ACHIEVE study, for short—was published in The Lancet, and presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference® just this week.

ACHIEVE study details

Conducted over a three-year period, the study examined nearly one thousand adults (aged 70–84) recruited from two distinct study populations—one consisting of “healthy community volunteers” and the other from a group of individuals already participating in a study on cardiovascular health — but all with “untreated hearing loss and without substantial cognitive impairment.”

Participants were then randomly put into one of two groups. The first group received hearing intervention consisting of hearing aids and audiological consulting. The second, control group received health education, but no hearing aids.

The individuals already participating in the cardiovascular study who were in the group that received hearing intervention showed 48% slowing of cognitive decline over the three-year study compared to their peers in the cardiovascular study group who only received health education.

The TL:DR version? Hearing aids slowed the progression of cognitive decline in the older adults who were at risk for cognitive decline by 48 percent.

Many studies have linked hearing loss and dementia

These results should come as no surprise, given that mounting research by everyone from the Lancet Commission on Dementia, Prevention, Intervention and Care to Johns Hopkins Medicine has linked cognitive decline and dementia to hearing loss. The Lancet Commission’s 2020 report is especially notable, naming hearing loss as the number one modifiable risk factor found to prevent dementia.

Showing that hearing aids may now actually slow the progression of cognitive decline, the ACHIEVE study further strengthens the case of how important it is to treat any hearing loss. If simply wearing hearing aids can help reduce the 10 million new cases of dementia worldwide each year (at an estimated societal cost of $1.3 trillion) while improving quality of life, isn’t it a step worth taking?

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