Managing Hearing Loss has a Positive Impact on Brain Function

Research demonstrates that hearing aid users have less than half the risk of cognitive impairment, compared to people with unmanaged hearing loss.

Hearing loss can be extremely frustrating! We can often hear some sounds, but we miss out on the clarity of speech, and therefore full understanding.

Hearing loss results in under-stimulation of our auditory systems, and parts of the brain that are involved in hearing and understanding sound, experience reduced access to patterns and meaning. The longer hearing loss affects access, the more likely it is to cause an impact on other mental skills that rely on clear sound. People who have a hearing loss may avoid meeting in groups and struggle to interact in more difficult environments. Avoidance reduces opportunities for practicing important communication skills and increases feelings of isolation. Effortful listening also makes it more difficult to store information, and studies show that poorer memory skills can result. Memory is one our most important cognitive skills, and so treating loss of sound (usually by using hearing aids) can make improve pattern recognition in conversations which positively impacts brain function. This helps to maintain mental skills.

Studies have compared the cognitive function of people with normal hearing (group 1), to people who have aided hearing (group 2), as well as, to people who have unmanaged hearing loss (group 3). They have found that people with unaided hearing show significantly more mental decline than the other two groups. There is also evidence to suggest that some people with hearing loss can practice the mental skills that underpin understanding speech, with appropriately fitted hearing aids, leading to improved cognitive function. Therefore, better hearing is one way of maximising our mental potential and is a practical strategy to reduce the impact of hearing loss on cognitive function.


Bucholc, M., Bauermeister, S., Kaur, D., McClean, P.L., Todd, S. (2022, February 22). The impact of hearing impairment and hearing aid use on progression to mild cognitive impairment in cognitively healthy adults: An observational cohort study. Alzheimer’s Dement, 8:e12248.

Sarant, J., Harris, D., Busby, P., Maruff, P., Schembri, A., Lemke, U., & Launer, S. (2020). The Effect of Hearing Aid Use on Cognition in Older Adults: Can We Delay Decline or Even Improve Cognitive Function?. Journal of clinical medicine9(1), 254.

University of Texas at El Paso. (2016, January 28). Hearing aids improve memory, speech. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 4, 2022 from

Communication Tips for Carers of People Living with Cognitive Decline

Ensure there is adequate sound stimulation!

  • Make sure that hearing is tested, regularly.
  • If hearing loss is identified, encourage consistent use of hearing aids.

Ensure that hearing aids are working consistently

  • Check the power by doing a listening check – cup the hearing aid in your hand and listen for a ‘squeal’. If there is none, insert a new battery or charge the hearing aid (if rechargeable) and check again.
  • If you are still concerned, there may be wax blocking the end of the aid which may need to be cleaned out (ask your audiologist how to do this safely!)
  • If you are still concerned that the hearing aids are not making sound, contact your hearing professional

Ensure that your voice is being heard!  

  • Stand behind your person, and say their name nice and clearly. Do you see any response or even a subtle reaction, like a head turn?

Promote ongoing communication

  • Cognitive problems can significantly affect a person’s ability to communicate. They may struggle to understand or remember certain words, and they are also likely to frequently lose their train of thought in the middle of a sentence.

Good ways of communicating with someone with cognitive problems:

  • It is important to learn any nonverbal cues that they may understand or use.
  • Try to keep responses and instructions short (one simple idea at a time)
  • Give them time to process what you are saying by pausing before saying anything else.
  • Be patient! Repeat if necessary
  • One can use gentle humour to break tension
  • Redirect conversations rather than engaging in arguments

Things to avoid when communicating with someone with cognitive problems:

  • Try not to argue or become irritated. This is not in your person’s control.
  • Try to provide 2 options rather than open-ended questions.

Plan stimulating activities

  • Planning activities involving auditory stimulation (eg. playing music from your person’s era)
  • Sing, clap, or make rhythms for fun if positively received.