Hearing loss is a highly prevalent condition, especially among the older population. It is estimated that one in three older adults ages 65 to 74 has hearing loss. For those over age 75, the number jumps to one in two. This is especially concerning given the strong link between hearing loss and dementia.
Fortunately, research shows that seeking treatment can help prevent cognitive decline.
Hearing Loss & Dementia: What the Studies Show
Johns Hopkins has been doing a lot of research on the connection between hearing loss and dementia.
In a joint study with the National Institute on Aging, researchers found that seniors with hearing loss are significantly more likely to develop dementia compared to those with normal hearing.
For the study, researchers examined data from the Baltimore Longitudinal Study on Aging. They tracked information from 639 people whose hearing and cognition were tested between 1990 and 1994. Every one to two years until 2008, they were retested.
Researchers found that:
- Those with mild hearing loss were twice as likely to develop dementia.
- Those with moderate hearing loss were three times as likely.
- Those with severe hearing loss were five times as likely.
Another study confirmed this risk, and also uncovered the rate at which cognitive decline develops in those most at risk.
For this study, nearly 2,000 volunteers ages 75 to 84 were tested over six years. Researchers found that for those with hearing loss, their cognitive abilities declined 30-40% faster than those with normal hearing, resulting in significant impairment 3.2 years sooner.
“Our results show that hearing loss should not be considered an inconsequential part of aging, because it may come with some serious long-term consequences to healthy brain functioning,” said Frank Lin, M.D., Ph.D., lead study author.
Treatment Can Help
Fortunately, another study published in 2015 found that treating hearing loss through cochlear implants can improve thinking and memory. For the study, 94 people ages 65 to 84 with profound deafness in at least one ear were involved. After receiving a cochlear implant and twice-weekly auditory rehabilitation for one year, more than 80% of participants with the lowest cognitive scores showed significant improvement.
To preserve your precious memories, like walks with your family around Lake St. Louis, call the Center for Hearing & Speech today!