Link between dementia and hearing loss

The Link Between Hearing Loss and Dementia

Within the last two decades, researchers have worked hard to better understand all the health consequences associated with hearing loss. Among that growing list of health concerns connected with hearing loss is dementia. Understanding what dementia is and how it is connected to hearing loss can both relieve stress and empower patients.

Here are some basic facts about dementia:

  • Dementia is a condition of impaired thinking, remembering, or reasoning, which can affect a person’s ability to function safely.
  • Dementia is not a normal consequence of aging.
  • 35% of dementia cases are potentially modifiable.
  • Hearing loss, which accounts for nearly 30% of these potentially modifiable factors, is the single LARGEST modifiable factor.
  • Hearing aids have been found to reduce the cognitive decline of hearing loss.

Hearing loss contributing factor to Dementia

Johns Hopkins Study Shows Direct Link

In 2011, John Hopkins announced a study that showed “Seniors with hearing loss are significantly more likely to develop dementia over time than those who retain their hearing.” (Hearing Loss and Dementia Linked in Study, John Hopkins, News Release, Feb 14, 2011) Here are some basic facts about the research:

  • Researchers followed 639 men and women for over a decade.
  • Both hearing and cognitive abilities were tested in the beginning and at 1-2 year intervals throughout the study.
  • As compared to those with no hearing loss, people with hearing loss had anywhere from two to five times more risk of developing dementia depending on the severity of their hearing loss.
  • Though the exact cause remains unknown, it may have to do with the strain of decoding sounds over years that may overwhelm the brains of people with hearing loss, or it may be the social isolation that accompanies hearing loss.
  • In a separate study in 2015, results found that individuals who reported using hearing aids had much better mental function (as measured on a standardized test for cognition) than those who reported that they had hearing loss but did not use hearing aids.
  • The research stated their, “finding may offer a starting point for interventions — even as simple as hearing aids — that could delay or prevent dementia by improving patients’ hearing.”

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