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First of all, not all hearing loss is because of the aging process. Of the approximately 40 million Americans with hearing loss, half are under the age of 65. We are seeing many more patients in our office in their 40’s and 50’s. This should grab our attention considering the results of a few recent studies centered around hearing loss and dementia. Along with other researchers at the Johns Hopkins University, Dr. Lin has been looking closely at the links between hearing loss and dementia. In a 2013 study, he discovered that those with hearing loss are far more likely to suffer from dementia! In fact, the people in the study with severe hearing loss were 24% more likely to experience cognitive decline, struggle to perform cognitive tasks, and have difficulty concentrating, remembering clearly, or planning effectively.
If you have hearing loss, your brain changes far more than you might realize, and you’ll experience reduced cognitive function which will worsen over time. Lin found that the more severe your hearing loss, the more likely you’ll be to develop dementia, and have an earlier onset of this degenerative brain disease. Even those with moderate hearing loss are three times more likely to have dementia!
Seniors are particularly at risk of both hearing loss and dementia, so it’s natural to question if these health concerns are connected. Nearly two thirds of seniors over the age of 70 have hearing loss, and if hearing loss increases the risk of dementia, it is important to treat hearing loss as soon as possible. Dr. Frank Lin from the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore is concerned by the apathy towards hearing loss. “The general perception is that hearing loss is a relatively inconsequential part of aging,” says Dr. Lin. Sadly, those with hearing loss struggle with more than just their hearing. They have higher rates of trips, slips and falls, more hospitalizations, a greater chance of living with social isolation and depression, and more rapid cognitive decline.
There is no doubt that as we age, things start to wear out. As one of my hearing aid patients put it “getting old is not for sissies”. However there have been recent studies that suggest that those with untreated hearing loss run a greater risk of developing dementia. Some of the side effects of hearing loss are anxiety, depression, isolation and loneliness. If we can avoid some of these side effects through better hearing, we can improve quality of life.
I am not a doctor, nor am I saying that wearing hearing aids will prevent the onset of dementia. Much more research and continued studies need to be conducted before we “claim” anything. However, the results thus far look promising. I have had numerous patients in my 20+ years of helping people hear better, tell me how much more “connected” they feel to the people around them because of better hearing. Schedule a hearing screening, consultation and demonstration, it’s worth a little of your time.