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Ears and brain: why does their good partnership matter?

A family gathers around a chess table while one is thinking about the next move the other is high fiving a family member in celebration

An interview with two of our experts in audiology and health innovation on the connection between good hearing and cognitive health.

For some years now, there have been indications that the use of hearing aids might have a positive effect on cognitive health. Recently, the results of two new studies on this topic have been released. What did they find?

Maren Stropahl, Expert Health and Service Delivery Innovation at Sonova R&D: In short, both studies show that treating hearing loss in older adults may slow down cognitive decline.

Can you provide some more context on the two studies? 

Maren Stropahl: The ACHIEVE study1(Aging and Cognitive Health Evaluation in Elders) looked into whether comprehensive hearing care, including hearing aid fitting, helps to mitigate cognitive decline in an elderly population. Over a three-year period, they compared hearing intervention with a successful aging program in two different cohorts. They found that in older adults at increased risk for cognitive decline, hearing intervention slowed down the loss of thinking and memory abilities by 48% over three years. The study also showed very strong positive evidence for hearing intervention fostering social participation and hearing-related quality of life. In the ENHANCE study2(Evaluation of Hearing Aids and Cognitive Effects), participants who received hearing intervention, including hearing aid fitting, were followed up for three years and their performance on cognitive tests was compared to a group of participants who did not use hearing aids. The outcomes showed that the hearing intervention group maintained stable cognitive health over three years, whereas the other participants showed a decline in cognition over the same time. 

Sigrid Scherpiet, Translational Hearing Health Scientist at Sonova R&D: The results of both studies therefore suggest that hearing intervention may delay cognitive decline and that taking care of one’s hearing loss may help maintain good cognitive health. Slowing down this decline can positively impact the overall well-being of individuals

How does Sonova integrate these findings into their hearing care offerings?  

Maren Stropahl: At Sonova, we are aware of the broader impact that hearing loss can have on overall well-being and quality of life.3 We recognize the importance of a holistic hearing care approach by fostering social participation and promoting an active lifestyle through our innovative hearing solutions.  We want hearing care to enable healthy living by helping people hear better so they can engage with their social circle more easily. 

In alignment with those beliefs and as a reaction to the study results, Sonova’s brand Phonak introduced an educational program on this topic called ECHHO; this stands for Enhancing Cognitive Health via Hearing Optimization, and it’s designed to enhance the understanding of the link between hearing loss and cognitive health. ECHHO is a dedicated training program to empower hearing care professionals (HCPs) with the knowledge and tools to better integrate the cognitive health aspect into their discussions with clients.

How can improved hearing and cognitive health affect social life?

Sigrid Scherpiet: Hearing aids enable social participation and promote an active lifestyle through improving speech intelligibility in daily life as well as reducing listening effort4 and fatigue in communication situations.5 By getting help with their hearing, a person can participate more actively in social life, which is important for successful aging6 and cognitive health.7 That’s why a good working partnership between our ears and brain matters.
Maren Stropahl Portrait
Maren Stropahl, Expert Health and Service Delivery Innovation at Sonova R&D
Sigrid Scherpiet Portrait v2
Sigrid Scherpiet, Translational Hearing Health Scientist at Sonova R&D

More about cognitive well-being and the ECHHO program

Find out more on cognitive well-being on the Phonak website.

Find out more about the ECHHO program launch in the Phonak press release.

[1] Hearing intervention versus health education control to reduce cognitive decline in older adults with hearing loss in the USA (ACHIEVE): a multicentre, randomised controlled trial - The Lancet

[2] The ENHANCE Study: Evaluation of Hearing Aids and Cognitive Effects (

[3] World Health Organization. (2021). World report on hearing. Geneva: World Health Organization. Retrieved March 8th, 2021. from

[4] Winneke, A. H., Schulte, M., Vormann, M., & Latzel, M. (2020). Effect of Directional Microphone Technology in Hearing Aids on Neural Correlates of Listening and Memory Effort: An Electroencephalographic Study. Trends in Hearing, 24, 2331216520948410.

[5] Holman, J. A., Drummond, A., & Naylor, G. (2021). Hearing Aids Reduce Daily-Life Fatigue and Increase Social Activity: A Longitudinal Study. Trends in Hearing, 25, 23312165211052786.

[6] Ho, M., Pullenayegum, E., & Fuller-Thomson, E. (2023). Is Social Participation Associated with Successful Aging among Older Canadians? Findings from the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging (CLSA). International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 20(12).

[7] Haslam, C. (2018). The new psychology of health : unlocking the social cure (1 Edition ed.). Routledge New York.