4 Things to Know About Hearing Loss & Dementia
Did you know that of the 9 lifestyle factors that could help prevent dementia, managing hearing loss during midlife is one of them? That's right! According to The Lancet Commission on Dementia Prevention, dementia cases worldwide are expected to triple from 50 million to 150 million by the year 2050. The commission provided recommendations for prevention and management of dementia and concluded that 1 in 3 cases of dementia could be prevented if individuals managed 9 lifestyle factors. Managing hearing (including the use of properly fit hearing aids) at any age is important, but they specifically noted that managing hearing during midlife, between age 40-65, is of great importance.
Our knowledge of a connection between hearing loss and dementia has continued to increase seven years after an original study was published in 2011 by John Hopkins University, which indicated the probability of developing dementia increases as hearing declines.
Here are some things we know now:
- Mild hearing loss in those over 65 years old doubled the risk of dementia, while those diagnosed with severe hearing loss were five times as likely to develop the disease.
- The correlation between hearing loss and dementia could be due to changes in brain function caused by decreased stimulation of the auditory system or could also be due to the fact that hearing loss leads to social isolation, which has been linked to dementia.
- Further research is being conducted to determine if treating hearing loss earlier will decrease the chance of developing dementia or other cognitive decline. We do know that treating hearing loss can help with social isolation and depression, two other risk factors for developing dementia.
- A survey by the Better Hearing Institute found that 90% of people receiving hearing aids reported a significant improvement in their quality of life.
Dr. Frank Lin, a neurotologist at John Hopkins University and lead researcher on the study of hearing loss and dementia connection said, “…the brain may have to reallocate resources to help with hearing at the expense of cognition.” Dr. Lin’s study followed 600 individuals who did not have any previous dementia diagnosis over the course of 12 years. During the course of the study, 9% of the study participants developed dementia. Those individuals who had hearing loss had a significantly increased chance of developing dementia compared to those who had normal hearing. As the degree of hearing loss increased, so did the overall risk of dementia.
Hearing loss can be managed with the help of a trained audiologist. If you or a loved one are experiencing difficulty hearing or have been previously diagnosed with hearing loss, this research is a great reason to visit our clinic for a hearing evaluation. Advanced Audiology of Greater Omaha specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of hearing loss, hearing aid fitting, as well as tinnitus and sound sensitivity management.
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