hearing loss and dementia

Huh, what did you say?

Adults with hearing loss are much more likely to develop problems thinking and remembering than adults with normal hearing.  Over a six year period, adults with untreated hearing loss suffered 30% to 40% faster decline in cognitive function.  These finding were published January 21 in the JAMA Internal Medicine**.  Taking into account variables such as age, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke, they suggest three theories to explain the link between hearing loss and dementia

Social Isolation

Social isolation was previously shown to be a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease.  Professor Cacioppo at the University of Chicago showed that simply feeling lonely may have a greater effect that actual objective isolation on your health.  We are social animals and need human interaction to live longer.

Cognitive load

Cognitive load but it is probably more correct to call it cognitive overload.  The extra energy your brain uses trying to understand and translate sounds for hard of hearing listeners depletes brain power needed in other portions of brain.  For example, there is less energy for short term memory because of the extra cognitive load used by the auditory cortex for hearing and understand speech when there is hearing loss present.

Pathological link between hearing loss and dementia

There is rising evidence that there may be a genetic link between hearing loss and dementia.   Hearing loss could lead to dementia, or the other way around.  The early stages of dementia may have an effect on hearing ability.

By treating hearing loss early, which decreases isolation and cognitive load, we may also help prevent cognitive decline.  If you suspect hearing loss in yourself or a family member, it is important to discuss this with your audiologist or physician.  A hearing evaluation takes about an hour and can easily rule out hearing loss.

**Hearing loss and cognitive decline in older adults by Dr. Frank Lin.

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