Home / Health & Wellbeing / World-first research is identifying the role different hearing aids can have in reducing age-related cognitive decline.

World-first research is identifying the role different hearing aids can have in reducing age-related cognitive decline.

Hearing aids may slow or halt the onset of dementia.  Research is beginning to show that untreated hearing loss speeds up age-related decline in thinking ability.  In middle age hearing loss is the number one preventable contributor to future dementia.  Hearing aids may reduce these negative changes by improving communication, participation in activities and even possibly by directly improving brain function. Researchers at the University of Canterbury and Auckland University are undertaking research to determine if some hearing aid settings are better than others for people showing early signs of memory or attention decline.  The researchers, based in the country’s two audiology training programs, are recruiting participants for a trial comparing standard hearing aid settings to those that have been optimized on the basis of memory tests.

The basis of the research is that some of the modern technology used in hearing aids is more helpful than other aspects when people have difficulty processing lots of information.  It is known that fast thinking can be affected with age and this can be measured by memory tests. In a new approach to hearing aid fitting, in a case of “less is more”, when memory deficits are identified the sound processing undertaken by the hearing aids will be simplified.  Associate Professor of Audiology Grant Searchfield from Auckland University believes this will reduce listening effort.  The research team believes this approach will lead to both better hearing and, in the long-term, improved performance on tests of memory and attention.  The research is one of the largest hearing aid trials undertaken in NZ and will test 400 people with about half progressing to the trial phase. The Health Research Foundation of New Zealand funds the research with the intention that its findings will be able to be rapidly implemented to clinical practice in NZ.  The research should contribute towards healthy aging in kiwis.

The researchers are seeking to recruit participants over 65 years of age with hearing loss who might be experiencing some difficulties with their memory or ability to undertake complex thinking activities.  Participants will be people who are considering getting hearing aids and don’t currently use hearing aids.  Eligible participants would be fitted with hearing aids and followed for 12 months to see how they are hearing as well as how their memory is.  Although participants will have to purchase the hearing aids there is some funding to contribute to the costs and appointments.  If you or someone you know might be interested in participating please contact Christine or Eric who will be able to provide more information.

Those wanting to join the study or get more information should contact:

About Grant Searchfield

Grant completed his Doctorate in Audiology at the University of Auckland in 2004. He is currently an Associate Professor in the Audiology Section and directs the University’s Hearing and Tinnitus Clinic. He is an associate editor for the International Journal of Audiology, Journal of the American Academy of Audiology and Scientific Reports. His research focus is cognitive processes involved in tinnitus perception and innovative technology for management of hearing loss and tinnitus.

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