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Do Cochlear Implants Help with Cognitive Function?

Can cochlear implants improve cognitive function? Cognitive decline can be one of the most frightening parts of aging. Luckily, there are some ways to slow the progress and possible improve the condition. Research shows that of 21 cochlear implant candidates whose preoperative scores indicated mild cognitive impairment, overall cognitive scores improved a year after cochlear implant activation from a median percentile of 5 to 12, reported Ellen Andries, MSc, of Antwerp University Hospital in Belgium, and colleagues.

MedPage Today’s recent article entitled, “Cognitive Functioning Improves After Cochlear Implant,”  reports that eight participants' scores improved enough to move them out of the mild cognitive impairment category (16th percentile), as indicated by the study published in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery. Speech recognition in noise also improved, which was tied to increased cognitive abilities.

What Was The Study?

The study is one of the first to examine cochlear implants in seniors with poor preoperative cognitive functioning. "Several large studies have previously demonstrated an improvement of cognitive functioning in severely hearing-impaired older adults after cochlear implantation, but few of these studies specifically analyzed participants achieving poor cognitive outcomes preoperatively," Andries told MedPage Today. She noted that the findings suggest that cochlear implantation isn’t contraindicated in candidates with cognitive decline and should be considered after a multidisciplinary evaluation.

"The management of modifiable risk factors for dementia, such as hearing loss, is important as there is currently no cure for dementia, and its incidence is rising rapidly," Andries added. The top modifiable risk factor for dementia prevention is hearing loss, which accounts for 8.2% of the global dementia burden, according to a recent Lancet Commission report.

The analysis included cochlear implant candidates 55+ with poor baseline cognitive scores among participants in Antwerp University Hospital's larger prospective cohort study from April 2015 to September 2021. The participants’ median age was 72, and over half (62%) were male. Speech processors were activated a month following cochlear implantation surgery.

The researchers assessed patients a month preoperatively and 12 months after speech processor activation. Most participants showed improvement 12 months after cochlear implant activation. In addition, speech recognition in noise improved after activation, and better speech recognition in noise was associated with significantly better cognitive functioning.


The findings support the information degradation hypothesis as a potential explanation for the link between hearing loss and cognition, Andries and colleagues observed. "This hypothesis states that older adults with hearing loss need to rely more on cognitive resources to compensate for impaired auditory input, resulting in more mental fatigue and a higher cognitive load, which leads to a reduction of cognitive resources available for other cognitive tasks," they noted.

As always, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If you or a loved one is experiencing cognitive decline or have been diagnosed with Alzheimers, consult with your estate planning attorney as soon as possible. Book a call with Vick Law, P.C. to help you prepare your estate and ensure your wishes are met and things are in order if you become incapacitated.

Reference: MedPage Today (February 16, 2023) “Cognitive Functioning Improves After Cochlear Implant”

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