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Hearing Loss & Dementia

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A recent study done at Johns Hopkins suggests that seniors with hearing loss are more likely to develop dementia than their normal hearing peers. They also found that the degree of hearing loss an individual has affects the likelihood of developing dementia. Those with mild, moderate and severe hearing loss were two, three and five times as likely to develop dementia as their peers respectively.

The reason for the link between the two conditions is not known. Investigators suggest that a common pathology may underlie both or that “the strain of decoding sounds over the years may overwhelm the brains of people with hearing loss. This may leave them more vulnerable to dementia”. Also, the social isolation that hearing loss can create may be an added risk factor for dementia.

This study did not look at the effect of hearing aid use on the risk of cognitive decline and dementia. However, the new digital technology in hearing aids can certainly be used to address the loss of hearing sensitivity. Research shows that individuals with hearing loss wait on average 7 years before acquiring hearing aids! This new study would suggest we need to encourage people to try hearing aids out sooner!

References

1 Lin FR et al. JAMA Intern Med. 2013; 173:293-9
2 Lin FR et al. Arch Neurol. 2011; 68(2):214–220
3 Fratiglioni L et al. Lancet Neurol. 2000; 355(9212):1315–1319
4 Barnes L et al. Neurology. 2004; 63(12):2322–2326
5 Bennett DA et al. Lancet Neurol. 2006; 5(5):406–412
6 Tun PA et al. Psychol.Aging. 2009; 24(3):761–766
7 Sarampalis A et al. J Speech Lang Hear Res. 2009; 52(5):1230–1240
8 Hampton DE. Hearing Review. 2014; www.hearingreview.com
9 Kochkin S et al. Hearing Review. 2000; 7(1):8-34

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