As research showing a link between hearing loss and cognitive function mounts, the Better Hearing Institute (BHI) is urging people to pay close attention to their hearing in recognition of National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month in November. BHI is raising awareness of the relationship between hearing loss and dementia, and is underscoring the importance of addressing hearing loss for the benefit of overall cognitive function. Today, nearly 40 million people in the United States have some degree of hearing loss.
While the causality requires further investigation, the increasingly evident link between hearing loss and dementia elevates the urgency of diagnosing and treating hearing loss as soon as possible.
A study published earlier this year in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that hearing loss is associated with accelerated cognitive decline in older adults. Conducted by Johns Hopkins otologist and epidemiologist Frank Lin, M.D., Ph.D. and other hearing experts, the study found that older adults with hearing loss are more likely to develop problems thinking and remembering than older adults whose hearing is normal. According to a Johns Hopkins press release, volunteers with hearing loss, undergoing repeated cognition tests over six years, had cognitive abilities that declined some 30 to 40 percent faster than in those whose hearing was normal. The researchers also found that the greater the hearing loss, the greater the levels of declining brain function.
In a 2011 study, Lin found that seniors with hearing loss are significantly more likely to develop dementia over time than those who retain their hearing. The study also found that the more hearing loss they had, the higher their likelihood of developing dementia.
Content provided by BHI