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The Connection Between Hearing Loss And Cognitive Decline

calendar-icon March 12, 2020
bookmark-icon Hearing, Hearing Loss

There is no question that dementia is a national health concern.  Those living with dementia suffer physically and psychologically, and their family and friends are also negatively affected.  The healthcare costs associated with treating those with dementia are staggering.  It is a priority of our government and the healthcare sector to find ways to delay or even prevent the onset of dementia.  

Although aging is often associated with cognitive decline, they are not mutually exclusive.  One can age and not develop dementia.  Multiple studies have found that midlife hearing impairment is a known risk factor for an earlier onset of cognitive decline.  We know that hearing aids improve quality of life and ability to communicate with others, but perhaps they can also delay the onset of dementia.  

A recent study published in the July edition of Journal of American Geriatrics Society followed subjects with hearing impairment before and after receiving hearing aids, and found that hearing aid use had a significant and positive impact on the age-related onset of dementia, indicating that hearing aids can possibly reduce the incidence of dementia altogether.

The researchers state that there are several mechanisms that explain why treating hearing loss can reduce the incidence of dementia.  

1.  We already know through research that wearing hearing aids can reduce depression by allowing hearing aid wearers to be more social and engaged, which in turn can lead to greater physical activity; all of which improves cognitive function.  For example, someone with hearing loss is more apt to go and join friends at a regular coffee group or participate in volunteer work or group functions if they can hear well.  However, without good hearing that same person is more likely to stay at home and live a more sedentary and isolated life.  

2.  Studies done by Dr. David Lin at Johns Hopkins Research Hospital have found accelerated atrophy in the whole brain for those with untreated hearing loss.  This atrophy, or weakening, of the brain was particularly pronounced in the right temporal lobe, which is responsible for processing memories and connecting them to auditory information, along with other senses.  Essentially, when we don’t hear well, we are depriving our brain of sensory information, which can impact cognitive ability.  

Treating your hearing is not just something you should do so that you can hear your spouse or grandkids.  It is investing in your health.  By purchasing hearing aids to treat your hearing impairment, you are taking a proactive step in maintaining your cognitive function.  By wearing hearing aids you are investing in your overall health.  Consider the costs of dementia and compare it to the cost of a set of hearing aids.  If healthy hearing can delay the onset of dementia by three years, as studies suggest, isn’t it a worthwhile investment to treat your hearing and avoid the costs that can be associated with dementia? 


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