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Gary Mendelson, AuD
Hearing Loss and Dementia
The Mendelson Group
. https://www.iheargreat.com/

Hearing Loss and Dementia

Compared to individuals with normal hearing, people with hearing loss are more likely to develop dementia.

People with mild, moderate and severe hearing loss are two, three and five times more likely to develop dementia respectively than people with normal hearing.

Even after taking into account other factors that are associated with high risk of dementia, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, age, sex and race, hearing loss and dementia are still strongly associated.

The findings are found in a study published in 2011 made by Frank Lin, otolaryngologist and epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in the U.S. He and his team followed 639 patients for 18 years. None of the subjects had cognitive impairments at the beginning of the study, although some did have a certain degree of hearing loss. During the 18 years of follow up, 58 cases of dementia were diagnosed amongst the 639 patients.

Increased Risk With Increased Hearing Loss

Another study, published in 2012 by Gallacher et al, has confirmed these findings. In this study, 1057 men were followed for a period of 17 years. Their hearing loss was evaluated at the start of the study and then again after nine years, in which both cognition and dementia were assessed.

The authors found a strong relationship between hearing loss and both dementia and cognitive decline. For every 10 dB (A) of increasing hearing loss, compared to normal hearing level for that age, the risk of developing dementia increased 2.7 fold.

Why Is There A Link Between Hearing Loss and Dementia?

The reason for the link between hearing loss, cognitive decline and dementia is still unknown.

Those who have investigated the relationship between hearing loss and dementia suggest that a common pathology may cause both conditions or that the strain of decoding sounds over the years may overwhelm the brains of people with hearing loss, leaving them more vulnerable to dementia.

The investigators also suggest that hearing loss requires so much “brain effort” over the years to decode sounds into useful information, that those with hearing loss become more vulnerable to dementia.

Another theory is that hearing loss could lead to dementia by making individuals more socially isolated, a known risk factor for dementia and other cognitive disorders.

Information obtained from www.hear-it.org

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