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Hearing Loss & Dementia

For one in two adults, hearing loss is age-related. In other words, the physical and environmental changes that we undergo as we age sometimes contribute to hearing loss. There also is an increased risk of dementia among those 60 and older. Several studies indicate that there is a relationship between how well you hear and your thinking ability.

How hearing loss and dementia are related

Researchers in Ireland found that those with just a mild hearing impairment have two times the risk of developing dementia than those with normal hearing. Those with a moderate hearing loss saw the risk increase to three times as likely and it went up to five times as likely for those with a severe hearing loss. Among study participants aged 60 and older, hearing loss attributed to more than 35 percent of the risk for dementia.
While hearing loss does not cause dementia, studies indicate that untreated hearing loss leads people to become less social, prompting them to withdraw. Without social interaction, the brain is less engaged. Additionally, the strain of trying to hear may overwhelm the brains of those with hearing loss, increasing the risk of dementia.

Can hearing aids help?

Johns Hopkins University researchers are looking at the link between dementia and hearing. Their ongoing study is tracking a group of adults with hearing loss. So far, results indicate that untreated age-related hearing loss may speed up memory loss. While hearing aids may not prevent dementia, the use of hearing aids may significantly slow the rate of mental decline.

At Brandeis University, studies indicate that aging adults with hearing loss show less “gray matter” in the parts of the brain where sounds are received and processed. They’re working to determine if hearing aids may allow the “gray matter” area to recover in size and function.

What to do now

Because hearing loss occurs gradually, often people over 55 may not recognize that they have some hearing impairment. With the likely connection between hearing loss and cognitive ability, it’s important to have your hearing checked regularly. 

At Palmetto Hearing Healthcare Center, we offer free hearing aid screenings. This painless test can determine if hearing aids will help you. The growing evidence of the connection between hearing loss and dementia underscores the importance of treatment. Regular hearing exams can help slow or even stop the progression of hearing loss. If you haven’t had a baseline hearing test in several years, please give us a call to schedule your free hearing aid screening. (843) 571-0744. 

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