The effect of hearing aids on cognitive function: A systematic review

Maxime E. Sanders, Ellen Kant, Adriana L. Smit, Inge Stegeman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Rationale Dementia currently affects 50 million people globally with this expected to triple by 2050. Even though hearing loss is associated with cognitive decline, the underlying mechanisms are not fully understood. Considering hearing loss is the largest modifiable risk factor for developing dementia, it is essential to study the effect of hearing aids on cognitive function. Objective To systematically review the existing literature to examine the evidence for using hearing aids intervention as a treatment for deteriorating cognitive function. Design A search of PubMed, Cochrane Library, Embase and grey literature was conducted revealing 3060 unique records between 1990–2020. Two reviewers independently selected longitudinal studies observing the effects of hearing aids on cognitive function in persons without dementia at onset of the study. Due to the heterogeneity of the data, a meta-analysis could not be performed. Outcomes are described in a summary of findings table and portrayed diagrammatically. Results We identified 17 unique studies, spanning 30 years of research and 3526 participants. The included studies made use of 50 different cognitive function tests. These tests were grouped into separate cognitive domains according to the DSM-V classification for further analysis. The most beneficial impact of hearing aids seems to be in the cognitive domain of executive function, with six studies showing improvement, two studies being inconclusive and three studies not demonstrating a significant effect. Three of five studies demonstrated significant improvement when screening for brief mental status. The least beneficial impact is seen in domain of complex attention, with eight studies showing no significant effects, compared with one demonstrating improvement with intervention. Conclusions Based on this systematic review, we conclude that there is controversy about the effects of hearing aids on cognition. Additional research through randomized clinical trials with standardized cognitive assessment and longer follow-up is warranted to further elucidate this relationship.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0261207
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number12 December
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2021

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