Study finds link between hearing loss and dementia

Posted under Blog on January 24th, 2013 by Editorial Team / No Comments

A new study has found that older adults who suffer from hearing impairment are more likely to suffer early memory and thinking problems than adults without hearing loss. 

The study, published in the JAMA Internal Medicine Journal, found that cognitive problems developed 30% to 40% faster when hearing declined to 25 decibels, which is deemed as mild hearing loss.

The researchers tracked almost 2,000 elderly patients over six years, accounting for factors known to contribute to loss of brain function, such as high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke.  All participants had normal brain function and hearing when the study began.  

Lead author, Frank Kin, an otologist and assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, says that the decline was statistically significant in the hearing-impaired, compared with people with normal hearing. 

Commenting on the study, Dr Lin told the BBC: “The major public health question is: if we treat hearing loss, can we delay cognitive decline or dementia? That’s what we all care about, but the answer is we just don’t know.”

Dr Eric Karran, from Alzheimer's Research UK, said the exact connection between hearing loss and cognitive decline was still unknown.

He said: "Many people find their hearing becomes worse as they get older, and age is also the biggest risk factor for dementia. Understanding whether the two are directly linked could give important insight into the condition, but more research will be needed to fully answer this question."  

While further studies are needed to investigate the link between hearing loss and dementia, suggested explanations include rewiring of the brain as hearing declines or social isolation caused by hearing loss.  Previous findings from the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry have identified a link between loneliness and mental decline. 

Tags: dementia, hearing loss



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