The link between hearing loss and dementia – audiologist San Diego
The possibility of getting dementia is one of the most common concerns people have about aging. Dementia is the progressive loss of cognitive functions, such as memory and reasoning. The most well-known cause of dementia is Alzheimer’s Disease, but there are also other causes.
There are many good reasons to work on preserving your hearing. However, you may not have thought about preventing dementia as being one of them. You may be surprised to learn that researchers have actually found a link between hearing loss and dementia.
The link between hearing loss and dementia
A Johns Hopkins University study showed a link between hearing loss and dementia. A group of people were examined at the beginning of the study, and none had dementia at that time. Their hearing was examined, and categorized according to a range of hearing abilities, from no hearing loss to severe hearing loss. They were then followed for over 15 years.
Those who had hearing loss at the beginning of the study were more likely to develop dementia than those without hearing loss. Those who had more severe hearing loss had a higher risk than those with mild hearing loss, with mild hearing loss causing the risk of dementia to double, while severe hearing loss led to a risk that was five times greater. It’s important to note that the hearing loss was diagnosed before the dementia. This demonstrates that hearing loss is not a symptom of dementia, but a risk factor.
What could explain this link?
The researchers looked for other factors that could explain the association between hearing loss and dementia. They examined both personal factors, such as age and sex, and medical factors, such as having high blood pressure or diabetes. None of these could explain the association.
Does this prove that hearing loss causes dementia?
This study indicates that the link between hearing loss and dementia is real, and that the hearing loss comes first. However, it does not definitively demonstrate that hearing loss is the cause of the increased risk of dementia. One possibility is that an underlying cause is leading to both conditions.
However, it’s also possible that hearing loss itself causes dementia. This could be a result of the extra strain on the brains of those with hearing loss. Because they must spend extra effort and energy on attempting to decode sounds, they may experience brain damage over time. Another possibility is that hearing loss leads to social isolation, which is itself known to be a risk factor for dementia. Social contact is extremely important and is necessary for brain health.
Get your hearing tested
If you or a loved one has possible symptoms of hearing loss, it’s a good idea to have your hearing tested. There are many good options currently available for improving your ability to hear, which allows you to participate more fully in social life. Improving your hearing could protect your brain.