Cognitive Decline / Hearing

I suffered sever hearing loss in a shooting range last year. Hearing aids are helping but I still have a very hard time discerning speech on TV. One on one OK but dramas etc I watch and don’t understand.
I just read an article (online - must be true) that said people with moderate hearing loss were 3 times and people with severe hearing loss 5 times more likely to be diagnosed with dementia at some point.
I have told friends that the hearing loss doesn’t really bother me that much but I fear it will ‘age’ me. No real definition of ‘age’.
Any ideas or facts about how to not decline cognitively due to this hearing loss?
Regarding TV - I have avoided turning on closed captions - probably out of vanity. If this helped me understand more would this help delay cognitive decline.
I’m 71 and in very good shape.

I am 92, in pretty good shape
(for the shape I’m in,) & have severe loss & have been using cc for years. Keeping up with the cc will certainly improve your reading speed & in my case, lets me keep up with the plot, news or whatever. I can’t begin to know what is going on without cc. My little gray cells are working a little slower, but I wouldn’t be doing any TV without cc. Don’t let vanity get the best of you.


What kind of hearing aids? Many have a TV Connector type device that streams sound directly to hearing aids. Helps considerably with understanding. Most everybody has difficulty with TV dramas as there’s so much noise besides speech. Also, showing us your audiogram (click on Forum at top of page and then My Hearing Tests) would be useful. TV is a solvable problem for most of us.


It’s not really about listening to stuff like TV, cognitive decline is staved off by having conversation and other such interaction with other people. A report here in the UK recently said that a weekly zoom call with the young grandchildren would do that for grandparents.

I think the main thing is to keep an active social life, based around something that interests you. Obviously hearing is an important part of that, but it’s not the hearing as such that is what keeps your brain working - it’s what it lets you do.


I am 73 with hearing loss that causes me issues with understanding speech even with the best hearing aids. I am active with my community and a number of meetings. Sure I have slowed down a little but not like some even younger than me. It is about knowing what you want out of life regardless of age. It is keep learning at all ages. It is reading, watching documentaries, using audiobooks, and going to lectures. And one other very Important thing wear hearing aids all of the time, and have hearing aids that allows you to hear not only speech conversations but the whole environment around you. Our brains need those environmental sounds just as much as it does words.


Hi David,
Whilst I absolutely agree that keeping active and socialising helps to reduce cognitive decline, the listening/hearing part of this process is significant. Even if you only listen to the radio, the auditory cortex is being being exercised. If this process requires hearing aids then habituating to the way that they sound is important.
Socially you are more able to engage if you can hear (through hearing aids) as your auditory fatigue/listening effort is reduced. This in turn helps you to be more engaged and results in more positive outcomes of conversations, which cyclically leads you to becoming more sociable.
So, although you might not think that ‘brain training’ is occurring with all sound stimuli, it is and subsequent to this your are likely to do better under social engagement.


Yes I don’t disagree with what you say at all. But my point really was that listening to TV (and hearing it well) is not on its own enough to prevent cognitive decline.

A good example of learning speech and staying cognitive is with cochlear implants.

We are taught to practice with practically anything that we can hear speech. To hear speech and try to understand it IS staying cognitive…

Keeping your mind active is cognitive. Here is the description of cognitive.

What Is Cognition?

Cognition is a term referring to the mental processes involved in gaining knowledge and comprehension. These cognitive processes include thinking, knowing, remembering, judging, and problem-solving.1 These are higher-level functions of the brain and encompass language, imagination, perception, and planning.

TV CONNECTOR!!! Can’t stress enough the world of difference it makes when the sound is in your ears (i.e., streamed to your HAs) — even better than one-on-one convo!. Subtitles are awesome and I still use them because my word recognition is only about 70% best case, but the TV streamer is a HUGE improvement!!! It’s been several years now, but I remember being stunned at Curtis Stone’s & Robert Irvine’s accents — with subtitles, they sounded just like me :slight_smile:


This is hilarious!


I’m 71, active (still working–by choice), & have been using captions for a number of years. Not only do they help me distinguish words better, but they’re often hilarious. Particularly when they comment on the musical background (e.g., Eerie music). I laugh almost every time.

I too benefit from a bluetooth adapter that puts the audio in my ears. Wonderfully helpful! Many blessings to you!

For cognition, I find that working (I’m a pastor, & so I stay in touch with Greek & Hebrew as well as playing with the exact word to say what I mean in each week’s well researched, conversational sounding, easy to understand, relevant, etc. message.

To exercise mentally, I PLAY–sudoku, killer sudoku, wordoku, crossword puzzles, jigsaw puzzles, 3 forms of solitaire (freecell, spider, & tripeaks).

Many blessings to you as you PLAY with ways to increase your cognition. (If I can think of it as play, it’s fun.)


There has never been a causal link between hearing loss and cognitive decline. There has been an association which may be due to many factors and requires independent research (not aimed at selling hearing aids). There are plenty of other good reasons to wear hearing aids including staying connected to others, being able to function in social settings and avoiding the depression often associated with social isolation as well as keeping the parts of your brain that process sound working optimally. Keeping your brain active probably helps to prevent cognitive decline but there are lots of other factors like risk factors for vascular disease for example.


I watch a lot on YouTube, the auto generated captions can sometimes be extremely amusing.

I have hearing loss too, but captions raised my blood pressure, can’t stay them. I either watch the video or I read a book

You seem to be dwelling a little too much on what problems may occur in the future because of your loss. Everyone is different. Tv sounds may be difficult to interpret for numerous reasons. Location of speakers and the fact that the sound is electronically generated and not natural sounding are just two reasons. Also hearing aids help but they in no way fix so there’s always going to be some shortcomings especially with someone who has a severe loss. Add to that a 70 percent speech comprehension and something has to give. I’m surprised you fight against using closed caption. It’s there to help. Over time it becomes second nature. But some people hate it. I have profound loss with 20 percent speech comprehension. It is what it is but I try to not worry about things I can’t control. There are other ways to exercise the mind. A lot of deaf people out there. They don’t all have dimentia. Funny about the closed caption. Some people in my family with normal hearing admit they check the cc from time to time to make sure they heard correctly. Like others have said you can stream the sound directly to your aids or you can wear headphones … There are many options

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There’s a load of deaf laboratory mice who would disagree with you on this.

Plus there’s some fairly good FMRI studies illustrating the effects of hearing loss on the structure of the brain. When you couple these to our understanding of the role of continuing stimulus activity to diminish rates of cognitive decline, you can see how it makes sense.

Have a search online for the various studies that agree with the concept.


“Making sense” does not equal a causal mechanism. This is an area of ongoing research not yet well understood. A bit like the fad for “brain training” which has not been proved to make long term permanent changes. It is a very complicated area of study with a lot of confounders. I am not questioning the benefits of hearing aids but I do question the need to scare people with hearing loss into believing they are developing dementia. I also think about the impact of that message on those who have no hearing.


Whilst I agree with your concern (and certainly don’t wish to scare anyone), there ‘is’ evidence in mammals of functional decline caused by lack of auditory stimulus.

I also agree that doesn’t equate to any form of eliminating the neural plaquing mechanism that seems to sit at the heart of dementia. I’m not sure the totally deaf example applies, as FMRI has shown that structural mental plasticity allows for neural reassignment which would mean that your brain would have already allocated the neural activity to the available stimuli.

However the absence of a real World control at individual and group levels makes this hard to prove, in terms of absolute therapeutic benefits. That said, people who wear HA retain their independence longer, require less care and social intervention. So, while I can’t prove the claim at an individual can give you real evidence of the incidence of that occurring at a group level.

The wider cost/benefit argument ( Cost-Effectiveness of Hearing Aids in the Hearing-Impaired E... : Otology & Neurotology ) is a bit of a given.

I purchased ear phones for the TV and they work pretty well. When anyone speaks to me, I can “hear” everything fine, but my cognition is terrible! Every voice, including mine, sounds like they first sucked on a helium balloon, making cognition impossible. I’ve been to at least 5 professional HA MD’s, one with National recognition for his contribution to hearing aids, (but apparently not to cognition), as he ignored my plea and hustled me to their hearing aid MD. I bought sp70 phonak’s for $6000 and they don’t help my cognition much at all. The only good thing is they connect to my cell phone and I can at least make some phone calls. Wish I could find a HA MD that could help me.

  1. Get a TV connector
  2. Turn on captions and at least TRY them!
    I particularly like to watch British (all countries) mysteries and have difficulty understanding accents and captions are wonderful!!
    I have been trying various demo aids for almost a year. (Have a great provider who is willing to let me try in return for reviews) I just got new Signia AX which have made a HUGE difference in understanding speech in noise. Still working on settings ( how to hear high pitch sounds without fans driving me nuts!) but I went to a dinner party and sat in the middle of a table of 10 - 12 and was able to FOCUS and UNDERSTAND every person when I faced them!!!
    So, keep trying various things!!