The road ahead can be a hazardous trip for those unwilling to pay attention to the signs…
A ground-breaking study indicates that people who experience significant hearing loss as they age may also be at higher risk of developing dementia.
The study was conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore in partnership with the National Institute on Aging. Dr. Frank Lin and others found that older adults with hearing loss were more likely to develop cognitive decline over time than others who didn’t experience hearing loss as they aged. Cognitive function is an intellectual process that allows us to become aware of, perceive, or comprehend ideas. It involves all aspects of perception, thinking, reasoning, and remembering. While hearing loss is not a “sentence” of creeping dementia, the study found that people with severe hearing loss were five times more likely to develop cognitive problems. A disturbing finding of the study indicates that even mild hearing loss doubles the risk for serious cognitive impairment.
Dr. Frank Lin, an assistant professor of otolaryngology and epidemiology at Johns Hopkins, directed the study: “For many years, hearing loss in older adults has been perceived as an unfortunate but inconsequential part of aging. Our research is now demonstrating that hearing loss doesn’t just affect a person’s quality of life. It may also lead to a decline in cognitive function.” Dr. Lin believes that the neurological stress imposed by hearing loss, such as the constant effort required to decode conversations, may ultimately take its toll. “We also know that people with hearing loss tend to avoid socializing,” he says, “and that social isolation is a risk factor for dementia.”
The good news is that social isolation and the risk of dementia can be greatly diminished or even eliminated through proper treatment. Hearing aids fit and programmed to your individual hearing loss profile can provide auditory stimulation, which not only allows you to communicate effectively, but may also contribute to delaying or even preventing diseases like dementia.