2 Unexpected Things That Slow Mental Decline

Hearing aids and cataract surgery are generally seen as harbingers of old age. There's even a certain level of stigma surrounding them in some cases. But as paradoxically as it may sound, they actually slow mental decline, according to a new study.

The Study's Findings

The study from the University of Manchester, England involved more than 2,000 people in England with cataract surgery and over 2,000 Americans with hearing aids.

The researchers sought to understand how participants' rates the mental decline were affected by cataract surgery and hearing aids. To make findings even more telling, the scientists examined people who never underwent any of those medical procedures, too. It turned out mental declined slowed down by 50% after cataract surgery and by 75% after the adoption of hearing aids.

How Is This Possible?

Even the researchers aren't completely sure. "It's not really certain why hearing and visual problems have an impact on cognitive [memory and thinking skill] decline," says Piers Dawes, of the University of Manchester in a university news release.

The most logical explanation seems to be the indirect improvements to the overall quality of life which hearing aids and cataract surgery lead to.

"I'd guess that isolation, stigma and the resultant lack of physical activity that are linked to hearing and vision problems might have something to do with it [mental decline]," Dawes continues.

The Stigma

The researchers are wary of the certain level of stigma that surrounds hearing aids, stemming from the limited results they achieve at the cost of discomfort.

Nevertheless, Dawes believes this is merely an obstacle which can be overcome through adaptation - of either the treatment process or the actual hearing aids.

"Perhaps a way forward ... is in the case of hearing loss, de-medicalizing the whole process so treatment is done outside the clinical setting. That could reduce stigma," Dawes suggests.

"Wearable hearing devices are coming on stream nowadays which might also be helpful. They not only assist your hearing but give you access to the internet and other services," Dawes adds.