Higher education may reduce cognitive decline for people with a mild hearing loss, a study finds.

Many studies in the recent years have found that untreated hearing loss is associated with cognitive decline. This association is confirmed in this study. But the study also finds that the cognitive decline is reduced for those people with hearing loss who have a higher education.

The study evaluated the association of hearing impairment with long-term cognitive decline among community-dwelling older adults and found a correlation between hearing loss and cognitive decline. However, for people with mild hearing loss, the decline was modified by a higher education.

“We surmise that higher education may provide sufficient cognition reserves to counter the effects of mild hearing loss, but not enough to overcome the effects of more severe impairments,” said senior author professor Linda K McEvoy to Business Standard.

Participants followed for many years

The study is a population-based longitudinal study of adults not using hearing aids who had hearing acuity and cognitive function assessed in 1992-96. The participants were followed for a maximum of 24 years with up to five additional cognitive assessments. Hearing acuity was categorised based on pure-tone average (PTA) thresholds: normal hearing (PTA ≤25 dB), mild hearing impairment (PTA >25–40 dB), moderate/severe hearing impairment (PTA >40 dB). The study had 1,164 participants who during the study completed Mini-Mental State Exams (MMSE).

Mini-Mental State Exam

The study found that the severity of the hearing impairment was associated with steeper decline on the Mini-Mental State Exam (MMSE). The MMSE-hearing association was modified by education for mild hearing loss. Mild hearing impairment was associated with steeper decline on the MMSE among participants without college education but not among those with college education. But for moderate/severe hearing impairment, hearing loss was associated with steeper MMSE decline regardless of education level.

The study, “Hearing impairment and cognitive decline in older, community-dwelling adults”, was published in Journal of Gerontology.

Sources: www.busines-standard.com and Journal of Gerontology

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