Are Hearing Loss and Dementia Connected

deaf person using sign languageThis is a guest post by Jenny Harrison.

There is a common myth that deafness is connected to dementia. At present, we could find no definitive research that states whether or not it does.  However, recent findings have suggested that it may be the case.

New evidence by the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, America shows that hearing loss may lead to dementia. A study of 639 people aged 60 and over found that those with mild cognitive hearing loss, which equates to struggling to hear quiet conversations or speech in a noisy room, scored significantly worse in cognitive tests.

In comparison to people with ‘normal’ hearing, their cognitive abilities were aged by seven years but it must be noted that whether one is causing the other is still not clear.

There is no real logic known as to why hearing loss seems to increase your chance of getting dementia but it is clear that deafness does lead to a greater cognitive load. The greater the hearing loss, the more chance there is of developing the disease.

What’s more, there was a noticeable trend for Alzheimer’s too as for every 10 decibels of hearing lost, the risk increased by 20%.

Unfortunately, additional research concurs…

Further findings in another study confirm the facts above. Over 1900 adults were involved in the experiment and it was found that those with a hearing loss had a lower cognitive test score than individuals with ‘normal’ hearing.

The risk for dementia was linearly associated with the severity of one’s hearing loss and there was no significant decrease brought about by wearing hearing aids.

So why are the two interlinked?

Some claim that it is simply a case of cognitive overload in which the brain wears itself out because it has to overcompensate to hear things. Others claim that hearing loss can cause isolation in individuals which can potentially contribute to the decline of mental ability.

What we do know is that by being sociable and getting involved in activities to stimulate the brain, this can protect you against dementia.

So what should you do?

If you start to notice that your hearing is becoming impaired, you should speak to your local GP or audiologist straight away to get the help that you need. It could be that you need a hearing aid, or alternatively it may be some lifestyle changes need to be made i.e. reduce noise exposure.

What’s important is that you don’t feel alone. More people suffer problems with their hearing than any of the other senses and it’s been estimated that in the UK, there will be 14.5 million with some sort of hearing loss by the year 2031.

The World Health Organisation predicts that by 2030, adult onset hearing loss will be one of the top 10 diseases in the UK; with a greater frequency than diabetes or cataracts. And Prof Adrian Davis, of the British MRC Institute of Hearing Research, forecasts that around 100 million Europeans will be hearing impaired by 2025.

Some forms of hearing loss can be prevented and early diagnosis is key. If left undiagnosed and untreated, it can have a damaging impact on your well-being; so make sure you act today to check your hearing and seek the help that you need.

Author Bio: Jenny Harrison writes for www.yourhearing.co.uk; the leading specialists who can improve your hearing and lifestyle. If you are struggling with a hearing loss and need expert advice on hearing devices, visit the site today.

Photo credit: image of deaf person using sign language courtesy of yorkd via photopin cc

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