Do you have trouble following speech when lots of background noise is present? Do you have difficulty hearing the high notes at St. Louis Symphony Orchestra? If so, you may have hearing loss, which research shows can increase your risk of developing dementia.
Fortunately, hearing aids can help.
What the Research Shows
A 2021 study published in the journal Alzheimer’s and Dementia investigated how dementia may be associated with a phenomenon known as the “cocktail party problem.”
What is the cocktail party problem? It describes difficulty focusing on a single speaker or conversation when you’re in a noisy environment, like a cocktail party. Most people can filter out background noise to focus on their conversation partner; however, hearing loss and dementia make this task difficult.
For the study, researchers examined data from more than 82,000 people over 60 who were participants in an ongoing dementia study in the UK called Biobank. The participants underwent tests that measured their ability to hear speech in background noise, and they were grouped into one of three categories based on the results.
At the start of the study, none of the participants had dementia.
After 11 years, 1,285 participants had developed dementia. Researchers found that the group who performed worst on the speech-in-noise tests had the highest risk.
What This Means
It’s common to associate the cocktail party problem only with hearing loss, but it’s something people with dementia struggle with too.
The study authors suggest that hearing changes aren’t just a symptom of dementia, but a risk factor that could be treated. So, if you’re having trouble hearing speech in background noise, it’s important to have your hearing tested and to seek treatment right away.
Hearing Aids Can Help
Another study, published in 2019 in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, examined the association between hearing aids and the time to diagnosis of a variety of conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, anxiety, depression and injurious falls.
Participants included 114,862 adults ages 66 and older who had hearing loss.
Use of hearing aids was associated with a delayed diagnosis of Alzheimer’s and dementia, as well as the other conditions listed.
For more information about the benefits of hearing aids or to schedule an appointment with a hearing expert, call the Center for Hearing & Speech today.