Dementia could be tied to hearing loss
Hearing loss in seniors may increase their risk of developing dementia, say researchers at the Johns Hopkins and National Institute on Aging. But understanding this link can also help those same folks fight against dementia’s effects.
The connection between hearing loss and dementia is not completely understood, but scientists suspect years of straining to decipher sounds may burden the brain in a way that leaves seniors vulnerable to dementia. It’s also not uncommon for people with hearing loss to isolate themselves, which can make things worse.
“Researchers have looked at what affects hearing loss, but few have looked at how hearing loss affects cognitive brain function,” said study leader Dr. Frank Lin, assistant professor in the Division of Otology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, in a statement. “There hasn’t been much crosstalk between otologists and geriatricians, so it’s been unclear whether hearing loss and dementia are related.”
The good news is that choosing to use a hearing aid may be one way to slow the advance of dementia, the research suggests.
“If you are frequently asking people to repeat what they’ve said, prefer the television or radio louder than what other people prefer, or are having difficulty understanding conversations in a group, you may be a candidate for a hearing aid,” he said. “The best way to tell if you really need hearing aids is to get your hearing checked by an audiologist to determine the level of hearing loss and the type of hearing loss.
Hearing loss is more than an inconvenience or the inevitable result of aging and should be taken seriously, Lin warned.
“A lot of people ignore hearing loss because it’s such a slow and insidious process as we age,” Lin said. “Even if people feel as if they are not affected, we’re showing that it may well be a more serious problem.”
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