Wearing a hearing aid may help stave off dementia, according to a new study.
Hearing loss has previously been found to be an important risk factor for the untreatable condition.
Researchers found that people who wear a hearing aid were able to maintain their brain function better than those who did not.
And the new study suggests encouraging people to wear an effective hearing aid may help to protect their brains and reduce their risk of dementia.
A team from the University of Exeter and King’s College London looked at 25,000 people aged over 50 for the research.
They were divided into groups according to whether they wore hearing aids and were asked to undertake annual cognitive tests for two years.
The group who wore hearing aids performed better in measures assessing working memory and aspects of attention than those who did not.
On one attention measure, people who wore hearing aids showed faster reaction times to noises and gave indications such as straining to hear a sound, peering closely at an object, and listening intently to someone speaking.
The research was presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in LA.
Lead author 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.
“We now need more research and a clinical trial to test this and perhaps feed into policy to help keep people healthy in later life.”
Professor Clive Ballard, of the University of Exeter Medical School, said: “We know that we could reduce dementia risk by a third if we all took action from mid life.
“This research is part of an essential body of work to find out what really works to keep our brains healthy.
“This is an early finding and needs more investigation, yet it has exciting potential. 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.”