Mature woman with hearing aid indoors smiling

Study Found Association between Hearing Loss and Dementia

Hearing loss in older adults may come with a cost. It could mean a higher risk for dementia. Hearing loss is a natural part of aging but ignoring it could cause much more harm than good.

According to the Lancet Commission on Dementia Prevention and Care report, age-related hearing loss is the most significant modifiable risk factor for dementia. It has also been suggested that hearing loss in midlife accounts for approximately 8.2% of all dementia cases. Research has shown that by age 72, one in three US adults has lost some of their hearing. However, more than 80% failed to seek treatment.

Remains Unclear

Unfortunately, experts say it remains unclear as to why hearing loss affects the risk of dementia. There are many causes for dementia, but many potential mechanisms link hearing loss to a decline in brain health. More than one factor may be causing dementia as people age.

Some experts believe that the same disease process causing hearing to deteriorate is also harming cognition. For example, small strokes that cause vascular dementia may be affecting the inner ear. Hearing loss decreases activity in key regions of the brain responsible for thinking which could also lead to an increase in neurodegeneration.

“It could be there’s a boosting effect on the brain from being able to hear, which allows you to better process auditory signals and experience speech and communication and emotional communication,” said Timothy Griffiths, a professor of cognitive neurology at Newcastle University in Newcastle Upon Tyne, England.

“Impoverished input leads to impoverished brain reserve, so that leads to a higher risk for dementia.”

A large number of studies have also suggested that listening under challenging conditions can make it harder to carry out other tasks that require more attention. The brain needs to use more effort to listen to things, and that brain effort is taking away from the resources that may be needed for other activities.

With so many studies suggesting that hearing loss is linked to dementia, researchers are still unclear whether treating the hearing loss would slow or stop the progression of dementia. There is evidence that hearing aids may protect people with hearing loss and mild cognitive impairment from further decline, but this data has been mixed and needs more clinical research.

However, researchers stress that using a hearing aid should be encouraged as it can only help, not harm, those with hearing loss. The Lancet Commission report also promotes the use of hearing aids to help lower the risk of dementia.

Hearing loss has also been shown to make it harder for people to socialize. Yet, social isolation has been shown to raise the risk of dementia by roughly 50%. So, using a hearing aid can help to reduce social isolation and therefore cut the risk of dementia.

Author Bio

Sarah began her interest in nutritional healing at an early age. After going through health problems and becoming frustrated with the conventional ways doctors wanted to treat her illness (which were not working), she took it upon herself to find alternative treatments. This led her to revolutionize her own diet to help her get healthier and tackle her health problems. She began treating her illness by living a more balanced lifestyle through healthy food choices, exercise and other alternative medicine such as meditation. This total positive lifestyle change led her to earn a diploma in Nutritional Therapy from Health Sciences Academy in London, England. Today, Sarah enjoys helping others by teaching healthy lifestyle changes through her personal consultations and with her regular contributions to the Doctors Health Press. Also, passionate about following her dreams in life, Sarah moved to France and lived in Paris for over 5 years where she earned a certification in beadwork and embroidery from Lesage (an atelier owned by Chanel). She then went on to be a familiar face sitting front row and reporting from Paris Fashion Week. Sarah continues to practice some of the cultural ways of life she learned while in Europe. They enjoy their food, and take the time to relax and enjoy many of life’s little moments. These are life lessons she is glad to have brought back home with her.

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https://medicalxpress.com/news/2021-10-loss-link-dementia.html
https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/hearing-loss-common-problem-older-adults

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